Monday, June 29, 2009

The Dream Is Over - Part 2

The Land Of Entitlements

There has been a shift from self sacrifice to the get rich quick ideal in America. “Ask not what your country can do for you”, is no longer the watch word for a generation. Having a fast car or having paparazzi follow you around is now the goal of most of the younger generation. A generation that was raised by MTV and not their parents. The myths of truth and self-sacrifice are no longer relevant to them.

A long list of initiatives by the Federal Government and the populace as a whole has brought us to this social quagmire. While all of these ideas were good in concept or motivation, the execution and reasoning were often flawed:

1) Desegregation and school bussing. Ever expanding social needs and the lack of societal resources to addres them led to a lack of truent officers and the lax enforcement of societal laws concerning behavior and decorum. Not that these are bad ideas per sae, but without the proper visionary concept of how they would affect society in the long term and the long term resources they would entail, they are now considered failures. Are having your pants sag round your knees ever going to be a acceptable when applying for a job?

2) Giving every developmentally delayed child the right to attend schools with other 'normal' children is a wonderful, idea, but the lack of commitment and resources to follow through on the concept did not raise the disabled child's status as much as it lowered some of the resources for the 'normal' children.

3) Making abortion illegal and legimizing every fetus as a person with rights is wonderful, until the cold reality that there are not enough resources available to care for or find homes for all these unwanted children. A child given life, that is unloved is not much different than a child that never knows life.

4) The idea that winning is everything and that everyone should win (there are no losers). In our effort to give everyone a medal just for showing up, we have diluted our society to be mediocre at best. We have to fear losing in order to want to strive to be better. The result is just the acceptance of failure as an option.

5) Failure to enforce immigration laws until the torent of illegals becomes too much to repell. Meanwhile, profit hungry capitalists begin advertising on billboards and print media in foreign tongues in order to tap into the illegals economic resources, thereby legitimizing their presence.

6) 1-800-Bankruptcy. The thought of making poor decisions and running up debt no longer has why bother to pay off those credit cards?

7) Single mother - multipule fathers. (Octomom), the concept that women are reproductive units unto themselves and the failure of society to hold the birth fathers or the biological mothers of the children accountable for their actions or indescretions.

8) The repeated failure of those in power / control to foresee the inevitable future (energy restriction / pollution / economic inflation / increasing population / global connectivity) and not focus the resources of their companies / governments on long term, conservative sustainable growth. So now we have corporate CEOs and governors that retire with millions of dollars in stock options or influence peddling kickbacks that have left their companies / governments in shambles.

If any of these examples had occurred in the 1950 or 1960, the public outcry would have been overwhelming. We have since been dumbed down as a society to find them acceptable.

These all speak of a society that no longer strives to excel and force assimilation of its populace into am educated society that is diverse at it's core but has binding similarities on it's surface. Instead we end up with one that creates a meaningless and bland group of people only driven by base self interest, greed and ego.

Combine all this with an apathetic outlook based on instant gratification (if it takes to long to do it it isn't worth doing) and we seem to develop of form of sociatal amneshia regarding the events that swirl around us. We have all been here before, but no on seems to remember this. Chrysler, The Arab Oil Embargo, The boom and bust, the Savings and Loan Scandal, Enron, $5 a gallon gass, The real estate boom and bust....leading up to to the collapse of GM and the Bernie Madoff debacle

A very good documentary summed up this whole problem very nicely. The film “Who Killed The Electric Car”, showed the desire of the people of California to prod the auto industry in a new, cleaner direction. The backlash from the corporate board rooms was to have the law overturned by special interest groups. Before it was overturned, GM hedged its bets and built their first all electric car (the EV-1). When the law in California was finally overturned by corporate backed lobbyists from Exxon and Mobile, GM recalled all it's leased EV-1s, crushed them and then scraped the plant that manufactured them, leaving no trace of the car. Eight years later, gas hit $4 a gallon and GM filed for bankruptcy. What did GM do with the excess factory capacity left by the EV-1’s demise? They built the Hummer.

(up next: In Conclusion)

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Dream Is Over - Part 1

Historical Underpinnings

[A little preface here: This three part blog has been in the works for a while. This is sort of a 'purge' regarding a lot of things that have been swirling around in my head for the past few months. My last blog purged my frustration with my workplace and this pretty much covers everything else. There will be nothing but sweetness and light from now on... I promise]

One of the primary problems with the world these days is our inability to see a situation or an issue from another person's or cultures point of view. My life is skewed in that sense. I don't work 9 to 5, and commute every day to a home in the 'burbs'. I don' have a tyranical boss, nor to I have the opportunity for advancement or getting salary increaseses for my exceptional work performance. I work for a state government. By all accounts a very poorly run state government. Several of our past Governors have been impeached or arrested and the state has come close to bankruptcy several times in the last decade.

So I have to question whether or not the things that drive me nuts are universal, or are they just manifestation of the world as I see it. After some careful analysis over time, I have come to the conclusion that the problems that infest my world are slowly manifesting themselves in the greater world at large. So in effect, I have been giving a glimpse into the future. Your future, and it isn't pretty.

In every culture, there are the myths that are perpetuated to give us all a sense of place. This mythology has followed every civilization down through the ages. Romulus and Remus suckled by a wolf, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, George Washington chopping down the cherry tree. These are the little antidotes that give us a sense of purpose and form the base of our value set.

Here in America, these myths have been centered on the concepts of virtue, trustworthiness, fair play and capitalism. As we progress farther into the future, the myth and the reality that they were supposed to foster have grown further and further apart.

As we have matured as a culture, our basic human instinct for self preservation and to get ahead to the detriment of everyone else has overshadowed our sense of community. What I am attempting to document here is that breakdown and the reasons for it.

That adage that ‘Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely’ has been around for a long time. Many of us tend to see the concept of power and currency to be interchangeable. You wield power by spending money. My current job has taught be that this isn’t necessarily the case anymore. Money is still there, but instead of the ability to collect it and spend it, real power now lies in the ability to direct it and manipulate it.

Many of the state legislators and directors that I work with make very little money. Their salaries are much less than their skills would demand in the private sector. However, they direct and control vast sums of money and influence that far exceeds their paychecks. There is oversight in this process, but very little. Politicians have learned that wealth can be collected in other ways besides a bank account. Instead of taking bribes across a table, the wink, a nudge and a handshake can buy a vote, with the knowledge that the pay off will come much later in the form or a contribution to a charity in their name, or a library named in their honor, etc.

So when the politician retires, with a very small pension, they also have several buildings and bridges with their names on them not to mention one or two positions on boards of directors for major companies on their resume. I think it is safe to say they are set for life at that point, and no money ever changed hands while they were in office.

This is ‘business as usual’ you say? It has always been done this way? Well, not quite. Not on this scale and not involving this much incompetence.

“Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You! Ask, What Can You Do For Your Country”. Famous words and a famous speech, it set us on the course to the moon and beyond. However, it hardly rings true in these modern times. We have become a nation of entitlements. Once bestowed, they cannot be taken away without a lot of kicking and screaming. The screaming involves what your country entitles you to, not what you can give back to it.

This all started back during the “War for States Rights”….or you may know it better as the “Civil War”. It is called the Civil War because the North States won. Had Robert E. Lee prevailed at Gettysburg it would be a different story. In order for the North to fund the military machine that subdued the South, President Lincoln enacted the first ‘income tax’, which sort of violated that whole ‘taxation without representation’ prohibition in the Constitution. But during times of war, you can get away with a lot of things. It went over so well and the Feds needed so much money for reconstruction after the war was over, they kept it on the books. It has now become and institution known as the IRS.

With the states no longer able to pursue their own self determination and the federal government as the all encompassing motivator and facilitator of all things American the power to govern ourselves in our own best interest as communities shifted toward the best interest of the country as a whole.

This was galvanized during the great depression, when Franklin Roosevelt sought to calm the masses by instituting public works projects and providing the nation with a sense of security… security. The holy grail of entitlements.

When more unrest threatened to sweep the nation in the 1960, Lyndon Johnson put forth the “Great Society” programs and the sense of entitlements spread a flourished throughout the land.

Finally, we came to the end result of the Big Brother concept of government. When the last big economic crisis befell us in the 1970 (the Arab Oil Embargo) our forward thinking President (Jimmy Carter) put forth a plan to make the United States oil independent within 10 years. That would have been the late 1990 by my calculation. Only problem is, it never happened.

As soon as the price of gas stabilized, Detroit went right back to making gas guzzlers and Exxon and Mobile (they were two separate companies back then) started building bigger off shore oil tanker stations and never put the investment into alternate fuels sources like they were supposed to. This is something that would come back to haunt all of us 20 years later. Lucky for them, the American populace has a short attention span. If they didn’t, they might recall that we have already bailed out Chrysler and the Savings and Loan Industry in 1980 and 1990.

The point being, that short term mega-profits for the well-to-do trump the government’s attempts to do what is right for the populace. The government has become the large scale holder and provider of entitlements and turns a blind eye to those that make quick profits at the expense of the population’s future. The government’s power no longer comes from the ability to control the money, but to control how the money is moved around. It is not economic power, it is economic influence. And the ones doing the influencing do not have our best interests at heart.

Many Americans still cling to the concept of manifest destiny and unlimited resources that will pull us out of this mess. There are still lands to conquer, precisous metals to mine and the global view, that the more we can capture and put our flag on, the more bargining power we will have with the foreign speaking folks across the ocean or behind the mountains.

Capitalism is based on a pyramid scheme that all can play but in reality, it does not work. Capitalism by its very nature has to have a poor mass of people and ruling elite. The US was not founded on the concept of freedom from a tyrannical king that taxed us without respresentation. It was about wealthy Caucasian land and slave owners wanting a bigger piece of the pie for themselves. Women, slaves and poor people were deemed to ignorant to be able to understand the complexities of the issues that faced the populace. This was perpetuated up until the Civil War, when the elites that ran the nation feuded and duked it out to see who would
control the biggest piece of the pie. The Federalists won that battle which set us on the road to the all encompassing system of entitlements that is now crumbling around us.

(next chapter: The Land Of Entitlements)

Friday, June 5, 2009

First Friday Flashbacks

Because, it all depends on your prospective. There is always someone worse off than you, sometimes, much worse off....don't forget that.

First Published, March 3, 2006

To Boldly Go....

Surrender Your Garbage Pods

I was watching an episode of Star Trek the other day. I had seen it about a dozen times, but Star Trek never really gets old. Like Gilligan's Island or CSI, you can watch it over and over. Syndicators must love these shows.

I sort of questioned why I liked watching Star Trek so much. I know that originally, it was the science fiction, gee whiz, neato, gadgetry and action, but as I grew older, my fascination with the show shifted. I found myself being 'comfortable' on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise.

That is when it sort of dawned on me. This show was the ultimate escape. The reality of life, especially once we have grown up and flown the nest can be pretty harsh. Taxes, traffic, alimony payments, incompetent supervisors, dead batteries all tend to make the daily struggle in the modern world pretty bleak at times.

As I watched Captain Picard order Ensign Crusher to Warp 3, it sort of sunk in. This was the perfect office. Imagine it. Going to work in a place where everyone is competent, no one is ever late, everyone has a 'can-do' attitude, you do really important things (like saving whole civilizations) and in the end, the Captain usually gets to have hot sex with some gorgeous, albeit strangely alien heroin with no fear of sexual harassment.

In contrast to the real world, I realized that through some twist of fate, I have been assigned to the Starship Garbage Skow. That long forgotten Star Fleet tug boat where all the "C" students from Star Fleet Academy are assigned. In my world, we struggle to get the warp engines on line every day, the Chief Engineer is usually drunk, the Communications Officer doesn't show up for days, the Science Officer secretly struggles with a Rubic's Cube in his quarters and the Captain has flaming gay tendencies.

The Star Trek on television is the ideal. That place that we all wished we could be assigned to and thrive in. But alas, it is just a fantasy.

I have learned that life aboard the Starship Garbage Skow isn't really all that bad. We rarely get attacked by fleets of irate Romulans or Klingons. The tasks that Star Fleet assigns to us aren't usually that difficult and I get to spend a lot of time looking out the picture windows (that need cleaning) and watch the planet we are orbiting rotate underneath me while the Engineer tries to jury-rig a fuse to get the impulse engines back on line.

I suppose that you have to find happiness regardless of what universe you get stuck in. Life is what you make it. Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go program the replicator to whip up some more cannabis and Guinness Stout.

Warp Factor 7 Mr. Smith....Engage

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Sponge Bob Shit Pants

I Attract The Nicest People

One of the little benefits from having a blog and really 'working' at it are the comments you get from fellow readers. I am one of those folks that love a good critic or a little note to let me know that someone actually took the time to read something that I posted.

However, once in a while you get a lurker that strolls into your blog and says something totally in appropriate. Which was the case last week. I got an email notification that I had a comment on a peice that I wrote several months ago called "Not Being Subtle".

The commentor took the time and effort to tell me what a 'dumb-ass' I am and that I am a 'dickweed'. Boy, that is constructive! Unlike most lerkers, this guy actually has a link to who he is. He has a blog with ONE blog entry dated in December of 2008. He also has a link to a website that specializes in the sexual fetish of 'spanking'. (you got that right folks...spanking and lots of it). Check him out!

Now I don't know who Mr. Sponge Bob Shit Pants actaully is, unless he/she is a fellow blogger making some bizarre attempt at an alter-ego, but if his profile is to be beleived, he is in the maritime services somewhere in Hong Kong.

I think the real humor here is, that this person would actually advertises what an idiot he is for the entire world to see......and all this because he had issues about how we remodeled our bathroom.

I left him a constructive comment on his one an only posting.