The Times, They Are A Changin…

2018-10-15_09-20-00.pngIf you believe the latest polls you have to come to the conclusion that “The times, they are a changin” as Bob Dylan said in his 1964 album. But, given how wrong the polls were in 2016, seeing is believing this time around. If more of us moderates get off our butts and vote, it just may happen.

Of course, I am talking about the mid-term elections that are quickly approaching.  I personally will be voting early today. If it does happen and the rubber stampers who are currently in charge of Congress are voted out, then I think the Democrats need to seriously consider what it will take to break the gridlock that is strangling our democracy. If that doesn’t happen then I can see a scenario where both current parties implode. To me, the first step in this process for the Democrats is a fundamental change of leadership. Without a change in the roster, nothing new will happen.  That means replacements for Pelosi and Schumer.

It’s time for a new relatively untarnished batch of leaders to take over. If they don’t come from within the Democratic party then I hope they come from outside both parties.  I know I am jumping the gun here but it has been on my mind so I need to put it on paper so to speak. Let’s finish off this post with the verse from the above Dylan song relative to the topic.  Get out of the way or you will be steamrolled over.

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Before you jump on me here, I admit that this is perhaps more a hope than it is a prediction.

The Fallacy of Consumer Driven Capitalism

The two major things that drive the US economy are personal consumption and military spending. With this post, I will try to convince you that is a basic problem for us as a country. It thwarts happiness and is a wasteful way to live a life. But the biggest problem is that for too many of us it is the ONLY thing driving our lives. More money, more stuff.

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Ironically this is true throughout the economic ladder from the richest of us to the poorest. We think that if we can just get a few more dollars to buy more stuff everything will be better. Most of us have been thoroughly indoctrinated into consumer driving capitalism. For many of us, contrary to what the philosophers say, money can buy happiness, at least temporarily. Or so we believe…

For those on the lower end of the economic spectrum it is another flat screen TV; for those on the upper end, it is a new $50,000 car to replace the two-year-old one we currently have.

Believe it or not, there are other parts of the world that take a very different approach to capitalism. They don’t depend on all of their citizens spending more and more year after year. Instead, much of the profits of their version of capitalism is used for the overall good of the country and its citizens. Those countries have an infinitely better infrastructure.  Potholes and failing bridges are not the norms for them.  Even more importantly they provide health care for all their citizens and security for their senior citizens.  Every statistic taken shows that they are much happier than we are even if they don’t have multiple storage lockers filled with junk.

How do we as a country get out of the “more and more” mentality and into something that makes us happier?  That is the question of the day for me.

 

What We Have Been Told To Do…

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I am doing something a little different today; I am leading off with the words that inspired this post.  I can’t say it better so why not just show it to you up front.

In the mid-1980s when the capitalist decided to change the rules of the game hardly any of us noticed it.  Up until that point, American capitalism was generally deemed a three-legged-stool. It was driven by the customer buying the product or service, those holding stock in the company, and finally the people creating the product or service. As long as the three legs were pretty much the same length our economy prospered.

Then came the MBA’s (Masters of Business Administration) which was a new degree in the business world.  When those new graduates started entering the business world the three-legged stool was discarded in favor of a total focus on the capitalists. Employees went from being an asset in the company to a liability.  Given our consumer-driven economy, they decided the customer would be there regardless of how they were treated. Corporate R&D organizations like Bell Labs were tossed aside as being unnecessary.

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As long as the capitalists could convince the rest of us (workers/customers) that when the stock markets went up everything was fine.  With this strategy, the stock market went from 800 to 26,000 over the resulting 38 years. That’s about a 33 times increase. The wage increase over the same period of time rose 3.5 times which was about the same as the cost of living increases.  In other words, the capitalists have taken home ALL the increase in prosperity!

I know the argument goes that more people own stocks now than in 1980 so that prosperity is shared by more of us.  In reality, now that pensions are pretty much a thing of the past, the percentage of families with stock ownership has barely budged in the same time period.

The fact is that the top 10% of American households hold about 85% of the total stocks and almost 50% of everyone else don’t own any stock at all.

How long will it take for us to understand that we have been fed a line by the capitalists? That is the question to end this post.

Looking At The World…

2018-09-21_15-30-06.pngI know there are very basic differences in how people look at the world.  I personally get much of my worldview from the words of Jesus and that certainly includes his very obvious stands on empathy and wealth.

One of the things I love about Jesus is that he led by example.  How many changes of clothes did Jesus have?  How many castles? How many servants? I don’t think there is anyone who can’t answer these questions. He led a life of poverty. He led by example. Did he hate the rich? Well, no not really but he did have some wise words for them.   He basically told them that they were expected to do good works in proportion to their wealth.

Now, finally getting to the crux of this story, I follow several of my high school classmates of 50+ years ago on Facebook.  It is frightful to me just how many of them are loyal Trumpsters.  The graphic in today’s post is from one of them.

I willingly pay income tax in order to keep our society/country running. Without taxes there would be no road, no law enforcement, no…. well you get the idea. Paying taxes is a privilege of wealth. Welfare, on the other hand, is giving your neighbor, and according to Jesus that is everyone else, a helping hand when they need it. That should be considered a joy to provide to those in need.

To at least this high school classmate paying income taxes is seen as a fine/punishment and giving a helping hand to those who have fallen on hard times is disgraceful.  What a worldview!

I may not always follow Jesus’ words but I certainly don’t twist his words to mean the opposite of his message. That is the ultimate in hypocrisy if you ask me.

Time Just Flies By

I don’t know how many times I have heard the expression in the title of this post. I don’t know how many times I have said it myself. I have always wondered why time seems to fly by now but in my youth a year seemed like an eternity.  It wasn’t until I got a glimpse of the short article below from the AARP Magazine that I came to maybe understand this time warp a little better.

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It’s interesting if I at least partially accept what the article says that the reason is stale experiences.  That is, as we get older, especially in our senior years, we pretty much do the same things over and over again. That lack of new experiences leads our brains to lock up.  Being a “Question Everything” skeptic that I am I’m not sure I totally accept this logic, but it does ring true at least at some level.

If you want time to slow down then you need to constantly experience new things or “fresh experiences” as the article describes them. Doing the same thing day after day is not only pretty boring but it causes the end to come sooner, so to speak.

So, I guess my “Embrace Change” life pillar is maybe making the days go by a little slower. But given the political atmosphere at the moment I kind of wish 2020 would come tomorrow. 🙂

Humanism And Jesus…

2018-03-05_15-42-33My conservative Evangelical friends would like me to believe that you can’t be a humanist and also be a follower of Jesus.  From what I have discovered in the last few months, that is categorically false. The two beliefs align very well with one another.

Yes, there are differences in beliefs for different versions of humanism, but since there are over 39,000 versions of Christianity that kind of seems a lame argument to me. I’m sure some humanists are more aesthetic in nature just as there are Christians who basically ignore the teaching of Jesus.

Jesus was about caring for “the least of these”. It was a core part of his nature and teachings.  Show me where the words in the graphic above are contrary to that? I have always been uncomfortable with the anti-science nature of many versions of Christianity. That, and the political one are the reasons I no longer call myself a Christian.  To me, those folks who reject science are simply too stuck to a few limited words in the Bible that they take far too literally.

It seems that in my old age I am just not much of a joiner so I no longer call myself a Christian and I probably won’t call myself a humanist either but I do agree with much of their philosophy. I definitely don’t call myself a Republican or a Democrat for that matter, both are now stained beyond recognition.