Welcome to Alternative Ideas...

Providing a platform for new and different voices...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Humility's Place

Humility has no place in the Western world.  Not if you are trying to make things happen and show your worth.  If I want something I have to attack it, I have to take it.  No one wants you if you don't sell yourself to them.  But with the way the world is set up, no one will see you, no one will recognize your strengths, or spend enough time with you to find out who you really are if you are not selling yourself.  And humility, differentiation, and being humble are inherently the opposite of promotion of the self.  Yes, of course, sometimes humility can be a selling point, but someone has to see this, and if you are promoting your humility... are you really being humble?  And then if you leave it to someone else to sell your merits, what recourse do you really have?  Do they really know you, can you really rely on what their true interests are or their own personal motivations?

This makes life difficult for the person working towards a humble life, one where you work hard and let the results and quality of your work speak for themselves.  There is little place for this in today's world.  If I want a job I have to be pushy, I have to go out and show every possible employer how 'great' I am.  My resume/CV has to talk about how 'great' I am, all the 'great' things I've done, and how 'great' my work for them will be.  Now, perhaps I am a good worker, but if I don't boast about it, where then does the opportunity to actually do work come from...??

Monday, July 19, 2010

The lost art of Integrity

Determining what is 'right' is a longwinded question with no real answer at all.  But there are guidelines: taking responsibility for one's actions, telling the truth, treating people with mutual respect and dignity, standing up for yourself and/or others, injustice, fairness, whatever.  But what does any of this matter here in a Western society that no longer values this within ourselves?  

We no longer hold these things dear.  It used to be that a 'man' was only as good as his 'word' and that honesty meant something.  It was all he had.  Now certainly it would be nice to expand that to 'person', as opposed to just a 'man', but the fact of the matter is that it just doesn't mean that much anymore to anyone.  People focus on themselves first, foremost, and even solely; they will compromise what is 'right' in a second if it means that they individually might have to sacrifice.  Would you stand up for what you believe to be 'right' even if it means it might cause you some discomfort or loss?  To what extent?

You live in a small town, you know people there, they know you.  An employer you know well decides not to pay their employee for some hours worked and your testimony could provide justice in the situation.  No lies or anything of the sort needed, simply telling the truth if asked.  Yet that is too much to ask even as the person not getting paid is someone you have loved.  You know they worked there, you know they put in the effort, and you know they have accepted responsibility for their own personal indiscretions.  They simply want to be paid for their time worked.  Yet you do not stand up for them or for honesty or integrity in general but rather simply for your own self-interest.  A self-interest that in-fact promotes dishonesty elsewhere.  And we as a society not only understand that, we condone it, we make it so that this choice is acceptable and perhaps necessary.  This is the most shameful part - this is way life has become us.

Our world has become about nothing more than individual politicking.  We play both sides, we do what we must do to raise ourselves up the ladders of life whether through the course of integrity or not.  Value judgements are placed on when and where we use our concept of integrity.  There are no principles, no stands to be made for what is 'right' or 'wrong', no real care about others or concessions to our selves or our 'individual liberties' in the face of another's.  The only stand that we make is that singularly popular stand for ourselves - even if this happens in the face of compromising ours or someone else's integrity.  This is truly a sad world we've created, and it is a world that - with each stand we do not take - that we continually perpetuate each and every day...   :(


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Life II

Better to read the previous post first as this one is simply an extension of that one.  The continuation of that concept of equality and treating all living things the same, of course needs to be accompanied by ways of doing this.  What this means is that life must become about conservation, simplicity, compassion, and patience, rather than extravagance, indulgence, and the self.  The drawback to this is that life becomes more complex as a person has to think about other things before they do things.  It means examining everything you do at all times and thinking can I do this in a more minimalist way?  You may have to take the time to get a glass and trap a spider or ant and release it outside, that you may have to get halfway down the stairs and realize that you have left the light on and go back to turn it off, that you should use cloth towels rather than paper ones.    Re-use the same glass all day, the same plate, blah blah blah, we've all heard the same arguments all along.  The trick to it is constantly having it on your mind, or at least in the back of it.  Can I be more efficient here, there?  I was chopping wood, I protected the insects I could.  At a public rest room, don't use the air or the towel after you wash your hands, dry it on your shirt, its just water.

We all live in the world we are born in to.  In most places today we almost certainly have to have cars, computers, food, etc to live, and we get these things in a myriad of ways.  But what we must to is to try to make it minimally intrusive on the world and lives we're surrounded by.  Find a balance with our lives and the liberty of all living things.  Life is a team sport, and we are all on the same side.

This line of thought is also far more complex and holds much more depth than the simple living things.  It is about identifying the chain of life and order of things.  If a light is left on, at what cost does this come?  In order to produce energy today there must be land area used and cleared, production capacities set up, transport facilities, workers and tools to do it all with, transformation infrastructure makes it all usable, circuit breakers, lights, bulbs, etc.  All of this production chain requires the same complex things.  Our economy is one huge production sponge.  It takes lives at every instant and with every addition to the production cycle.  In terms of space, movement, facilitation, and delivery.  The environment is being alterered and changed at each step.  Therefore, we must reduce our consumption, reducing our production, reducing the amount of space and resources we need to live.  This is not a new concept, conservation is at the heart of so many movements right now.  But it is important to understand that with everything you buy or consume you are taking something form the earth and it inhabitants.

We need to come to a new homeostasis with the earth and to balance our needs with its resources.  We already have to many people on the earth, and we are trying to develop all societies so that they can live a 'modern' life, with all the amenities.  The world however can not sustain this.  So what do we do?  We kill people in the developing world with our consumption and drive for resources.  Diamonds, rubber, oil.  When we try to create ethanol based bio-diesel from corn for our cars, the cost of corn goes up and some people can't afford food.  We are hurting people by our own desire and arrogance of the self, and perpetrating it with our own ignorant media and informational methods.  All living entities on the planet - plants, insects, bacteria, etc - are all affected by this.

This is really about a mental exercise.  It is never 'just' a plastic bag or plastic wrap, never 'just' better to take the short cut, but it is always an opportunity to make a difference, every moment, every day.  If you can leave a building by physically opening a door or using the electronic garage or handicapped door opener, which do you choose?  Open the door by yourself, its healthier for both you and the world.  If we conserve in our self consumption, our self production, and in all else we encounter every day, we can simplify life and help provide equal outcomes for all lives, on all levels.      

Monday, July 12, 2010


I have spent a great deal of time over the last however many months and years really trying to explain my view of life to people.  I feel that it might just be easier to put it down on paper and send people here to read it.

Before I get into the ills of society and what we are doing to offset the balances of life on our planet, think it best to jsut state my position.  I believe first and foremost that we are all equal.  By this I do not mean "we", as in all of us Americans, or Westerners, or Ethnicities and Races, creeds and religions, or even ever so more broadly, humans.  I mean ALL of us.  All of the living things that inhabit our earthly environment.  From the most arrogant of humans to the most "ignorant" of algae - plants, animals, insects, bacteria, and both the earthly and unearthly particles that may or may not surround us.  I see the earth as an holistic entity that works uniformly together, and thus everything in it should be valued and respected as such.  A wise old man name Mozi, once espoused a principle of "universal love" for all.  And by "all" Mozi - to my interpretation - was generally speaking of people (though his works are some 2500 years old and translated so one can't be certain).   But anyway, I take this concept further than this interpretation.  I think it is about universal 'love', or as I prefer universal 'respect', for ALL things on earth.

So what does this mean?  Everyone can easily say that they love all things, but do we really show it, practice it?  When was the last time you killed a fly?  A spider?  An animal?  Pulled out a weed?  Chopped down a tree?  All of these are things that many of us do in daily life - get out the fly swatter and kill one.  This is not right.  That fly - along with every other thing in the world - has just as equal a right to live as you and me and everything else.  Who are we as humans to decide what or who lives and dies?  We call war and killing a travesty, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International beat the drums of individual rights to life/liberty and of the 'inhumane' treatment of those less fortunate and suffering, but for the most part we stop there.  Yes of course we try to protect animals.  We value them right below us on the arrogance chain.  We choose not to include other living beings.  Some do, Buddhist principles respect the life of all things, yet the rest of us don't head their lesson.  Why not try not to kill worms or whatever else doesn't have to die for survival?

I often have a disagreement with some vegetarian friends over this basic principle.  Some vegetarians don't eat meat because they physically feel better when they don't, others may find it a positive social scenario, others about the mistreatment of animals in slaughterhouses, etc, the list goes on infinitely.  I however have a serious problem with people that say they don't want to kill animals - yet they have ABSOLUTELY no problem killing a plant.  In simple terms this is 100% hypocritical.  Your problem is with death, yet you put a value judgement on who's or what's life is more important than another's!!  A living thing is a living thing and no values should be attached to them.  

Now most often, the first thought in people's minds is usually: but we have to eat, we have to do things to maintain our lives.  Of course we do.  And the basis of my concept is that we have to find a balance and put in an effort - at all costs - not to harm things that do not explicitly need to be done or killed/harmed.  We have to eat, so we kill animals, plants, etc.  So this in my view is a necessary scenario, just as a spider kills and eats a fly.  But these killings should be done respectfully and only out of necessity.  Not as we do now in overcrowded slaughter houses that take nothing into account but the cost of production and killing.  We should all do what we need to do to survive but work within a balance of nature that goes way beyond one's own 'self'.  And I know this is difficult to understand because we have been taught and socialized to see the world solely through our own eyes and in hierarchical terms based upon us at either the center or the top.  In terms of our own individual quality of life, killing a fly makes our lives 'easier', convenient.  Are we so arrogant to think that we are above another living thing that we share an entire ecosystem with?  Without flies we would not exist, just as without spiders there would be to many flies.  A friend said, yes but flies spread disease and in refugee camps this is one of the leading causes of sickness and death.  But when was the last time someone died in suburban New York from disease spread by flies?    It is not the flies, it is the cleanliness and unsavory conditions that these people are living in that then can be spread by ANYTHING, including flies.   In my opinion, we kill flies mostly because they are annoying and because we have been taught they are "bad."

So here we sit, at the top of the arrogance chain, speaking as if we are the almighty overlords of our world.  Who is, or how, our population growth is being checked is sadly not at issue.  We are the one's putting the world's ecosystem and living scenario at risk with our overpopulation and over consumption.    Is arrogance civilized?  It is certainly not team oriented, or cooperative in nature.  It is a value judgement, I/We are 'better' than something else.  What do you think of when you see an arrogant person in your daily life?  Do you respect them, or do they rub you the wrong way?  We are that person in the world we live in.  We should strive for compassion, and equality in value in an attempt to universally respect ALL living things - not just humans or sometimes animals, but EVERYTHING that we SHARE our world with.  Give life everyday...  Share life everyday...

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Is Freedom Truly Possible?

So I just picked up and skimmed through an old book of mine, F.A. Hayek's classic Road to Serfdom, and came to an interesting thought that I'd been meaning to write about for a while.  There is a section about freedom v. organization.  It says basically that they are contradictory, that you can't have organization and freedom together, that organization is the culprit.  I see where he is going, he is saying if you want to organize things then whoever is doing the organizing is collectivizing objectives and outcomes.  This in turn would inherently mean that individual freedom was infringed upon.  Ok, fair enough, if you think about everyone, how can you not alienate someone as we are all different individual people.

But what about freedom, the other way around?  If one person has the freedom to do whatever they want, doesn't that automatically impinge upon everyone else's freedom?  Inherently, if I do something, that effects another person.  If I stand on a spot, you can't stand there.  If I have the freedom to do as I wish, that means you can't do something, it takes away your freedom.  I have the freedom to yell as loud as I want, but doesn't that take away your freedom to live in peace and quite?

The bottom line to me is that freedom can not exist for all but one individual or entity.  There can obviously be varying degrees of freedom from there, but one person's freedom is another person's infringement.  There is no way around this.  We live in a social world and could only be 'free' in a vacuum devoid of anyone else.

So then what does this mean for us today?  It means that our whole political debate on civil liberties and 'freedom' is completely off base.  We talk of all the freedoms we have, how this is our ultimate goal/achievement.  But again, one person's freedom can very easily take another person's away.  Not always, but if they are contradictory actions, such as the noise example above, one person has freedom and another doesn't.  Then once you add social or judicial laws in, we actually only have the freedom to do as we're told, and as we are allowed to by law and/or society.  Doesn't sound like freedom to me.        

So why do we keep babbling on about freedom like it is attainable?  Hayek babble's on about community and organizing like it is unobtainable, that it is a great ideal, but that there is no possible pathway to it.  In fact, organization and cooperation is actually the only obtainable outcome available to us as social beings that must share our worlds with others.  We must compromise our surroundings in order to find a balance that is acceptable to all.  If we all had freedom to do as we pleased (which is logically unobtainable), the world would be chaos .  Why strive for this?  Why act as if it is the ultimate achievement?

In fact, compromise and cooperation amongst people, and the world they live in, is the actually the only possible endeavor and really the ultimate achievement.  Living with people and working together, not as individuals privately working for their own means...  Cooperation.  This is what society need to be based upon, not freedom.  

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Walking Lion

So... given the post directly below this, I have decided to become even less interesting and look into a new venture that is close to my heart.  I will never abandon this project - as ideas are the foundation of what the world needs, and alternative ones are the most important - but I can not do much with it now and I've found a way to go looking the world over for more ideas!!  Take a look at http://www.walkinglion.org/ for more.  By all means though, check both sites, as this one will still have its posts.  Walking Lion will be for the one specific project.  Thanks...  

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Least Interesting Person in the World

So here I am, by myself, alone.  Well not entirely, I do live with my parents.  So they're around.  But I'm recently single, I have no real job, seemingly little prospects of such a thing, and less and less hope these days.  I feel like I have accomplished things in life, yet find myself feeling as if I must be the absolute least interesting person in the world.


I'm educated.  I have a graduate degree and additional graduate work that has focused on people, society, and their histories.  I have studied different cultures and systems of life, and specifically how to 'clean up' after war.  I have seen a great deal of different places.  I've averaged living in a new place every five months for the last 10 plus years.  10 cities, 6 countries, 3 continents.     I have lived a great deal of different lives and entertained a multitude of different career/job choices:  Stock broker trainee in New York, Advertising/Media planning, teacher of English as a second language in both Europe and China, professional athlete, president/director of a non-profit in eastern Europe, advertising sales for a newspaper, International PR manager for a marathon, I've independently coordinated cross continent flood relief/reconstruction on my own, done telephone sales of computer software,  been a personal trainer, done door-to-door environmental advocacy work, sold specialty running shoes, stocked retail shelves,  been an Eastern European day laborer, a Graduate student – twice, a researcher at the UN archives, looked into entrepreneurial projects in China, volunteered as a teaching assistant, been promoted from marketing executive to senior analyst and head of research and development for a company working in conflict areas.  I've tried to start three businesses in the last year, been un/underemployed, volunteered in local government, done some writing, become a youth women's lacrosse official, and am on food stamps.    

A laundry list of experiences.  Scattered and discombobulated at best, but safe to say, I've experienced an awful lot in the last tenish years.  I've climbed mountains, met people from all over the world, dated several amazing women, and recently tried to settle in a bit to spend more time with my elderly grandparents.  I am overly friendly – to my own detriment – and likewise ideologically.  I  can speak a second language adequately and know my way around Europe and its cultures.  I've lived in China, I study Sierra Leone and Africa, and the conflict spots in the middle east.  I have tried to make myself capable of engaging in conversation about anything, educate myself on everything I can.  I am worldly, and I care tremendously for and about it.  I want nothing more than to alleviate world poverty, to help others and to make the world a better place, to make a difference.

Yet still, I am a lost lonely soul.  I have lots of friends, yet they are all over the world and I never can maintain these long distance relationships very well.  Being back here in America it has become even worse.  When I sit and talk to people it is as if I am a leper.  I can't talk about American TV shows or babies, I am not content with just getting a job and living that life, and thus struggle in conversing with people of these persuasions.  Of course this is an issue in America because this is what we are taught to be.  Get a career, follow it, and think little outside family, friends, and your immediate location.  I question every bit of reality presented to us, analyze it and try to find better or more productive ways for us all.  But this is not what people want to talk about.  People here don't find any of the things I bring to the table interesting.

I have seen the world, yet no one cares.  No one is interested in this.  They do not want to know about the further shores of the world.  They don't want to think about much of the lives and pains of the greater world as it may force questions that are easier ignored.  Yet, I am the least interesting person in the world because I can and actually do talk about these things.  People don't want to be made to feel bad about the lives they live, or uncomfortable about/with their own priorities.  We are taught to see the life in front of us and accept it – not to challenge it or to think it could be done otherwise or even to seek out the plights of others.

In one year back in the US I have not received even a single job interview.  Now maybe my resume isn't very good, or maybe I'm not applying to the right jobs, or there are just a million people looking for the same job.  But I don't think this can all be the case, job after job, for a full year.  I am educated and experienced.  But apparently not enough, or to much, or not in a way that people here want.  I think employers, and our society, want people that are NOT interesting.  They want people that graduated from college, never looked up, and started working.  They found a ladder and took one step up it at a time.  Never jumped off it, never looked at other ladders and certainly never thought about a live that varied from this course.  In ten years I could have slowly worked up this ladder, but I would have no REAL experience in life.  But this is just it, it is not 'life' experience that these employers are looking for, it is systemic, compliance experience.  They don't want independent thinkers, they want systemic individuals that work as they are expected and carry little ambition outside of what is allowed for us by that life and job.

So here I sit.  Unemployed, uninvolved, unloved, and uninteresting, and more and more disinterested.  I see more than sports, spouses, and babies.  My career and ideological interests make little if any sense to others, and when I talk about life people inherently end up feeling badly about all the horrors of the world that we in this country are programmed not to overtly worry about – to ignore.

This is the chief problem.  I, with all my experiences, seem to be the least interesting person in the world.  What is it that this says about us as people and about our society?  Someone who has seen others places, lived amongst truly different people, and has worked to educate themselves on other ways of life is ostracized.  I have worked hard, I have succeeded in many professional and personal goals and projects, yet I still sit here alone.  In a society that does not value initiative and success, but values ladders, followers, and involuntary social contracts.  To be whatever we 'want' to be (as chosen from a list and used in multiple choice scantron form).  I want to be more, I don't want to just drink beer and watch sports, I don't just want kids and a spouse.  I want to be a part of the greater world.  I want to understand more than the spoke and wheel that I am a singular part of.  I want to be able to be both interesting and a part of society.  Right now I feel like I have to make a choice – interesting or successful – and it is killing me!

to be continued.... 

Saturday, May 15, 2010

In Greek Debt Crisis, Some See Parallels to U.S - NY Times

It’s easy to look at the protesters and the politicians in Greece — and at the other European countries with huge debts — and wonder why they don’t get it. They have been enjoying more generous government benefits than they can afford. No mass rally and no bailout fund will change that. Only benefit cuts or tax increases can.

Yet in the back of your mind comes a nagging question: how different, really, is the United States?


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Exception

So I had a long conversation with a very good and old friend of mine the other day.  First time we had seen each other in years.  It was fabulous, great memories of great times, and lots of mutual admiration.  But there was one huge remembrance that I came away with that has been tough to move beyond.  She has become the epitome of the individualistic person that half of this blog consistently rails against, and presented that point in full throughout.  We were talking at length about society and how it functions and what people want and expect from it.  She is very wealthy at this point, talking of a second home on that beach that would cost a million dollars to just to build (let alone the existing property value).  Funny though, as I sit across the table from her wondering what the heck I'll do with myself and ate that day using food stamps.

She went down all the same familiar roads, about how people who work for things should be able to keep them, that taxation is what is stifling America's economy, that the poor are merely there because they don't want to put in the effort and are just looking for hand-outs, etc.  I was of course in her words "the exception".  I had told her of my efforts to keep moving, to stay afloat, of my inability to gain true employment, the side jobs on top of the part-time work, and my continual effort to come up with businesses to start and to try to 'make' my own living instead of waiting for someone else to give me a job.  She stuck to her line of thought, I was the exception.  Everyone else was just sitting there waiting for 'the gift'...

But I know this not to true.  I know people in my position, I talk to people on the streets, at the social services building.  I have studied poverty both personally and academically.  Think of how many people out there would like to start their own business.  I assure you that I am not the only one.  I think it is safe to say that if the system made it easy to start and maintain a business that most people would be very happy to be their own boss, run their day-to-day lives, and make money their own way.  No stretch there, we all want to control our own destiny.  BUT, here I am trying.  Yet I can't get anywhere.  And you know why?  Because I don't have any money.  I have several ideas that I have worked on this past year and over the last several years.  But without money, I / YOU CAN NOT DO ANYTHING.  And this is where we as a society, and my friend's logic fails miserably.

She kept talking about initiative and how no one would step up and really work hard to get their job, that their didn't seem to be a hard worker among anyone in the area there.  Now I don't know the specifics of it all, but I've never heard of such a thing unless there was some sort of catch, or the project wasn't really feasible.  But anyway, this isn't necessarily the point.  The point is, that it isn't about initiative, or desire, because there are plenty of people out there with that.  It is about support and financing.

The project that I am looking at now is straight forward.  It is a retail establishment.  It is a highly viable specialty shop in a $ 650 million market sector that currently has 713 stores nationwide.  Almost a million dollars per store throughout the country.  And the area I'm in has over a million people and one store that is not two years old and is doing a horrible job in both management and marketing.  I know this because I have worked in this industry off and one since 2003, and I currently work at that specific store part-time (for basically a local minimum wage) and I see us losing money and business daily.  The business concept is well researched, thought out, and written, yet I have no money.  So here I sit, another good idea (and this time a simple, well grounded one), yet it is most likely going to be highjacked by other people with no clue about the industry, only a view to a money making opportunity.  You get out what you put in, if you only put in money you only expect money in return, however, if you put in your soul, you would love to see it come out the other side in a better position.  And this is where our society has gone so far wrong, we base our value of things so thoroughly on money.  Everyone talks of 'well if I am putting up the money then I am taking all the risk, I should have a higher valuation'.  No, the person putting up the money is not the one taking the true risk, it is the person that is going to commit the next however many years of their life, time, and effort to it that is risking everything. Their heart, their soul, sleepless nights on the stores couch, missed wages, seven day weeks, and no time off or vacations.  This is a sacrifice, this is worth something.  Time, effort, struggle.  This matters, a few thousand dollars is important of course in our world, but   Money without an investment, will never grow, just as a business without money will never grow in today's world.  Neither can succeed without the other.  But I am sorry, though they are both needed, money is way to overvalued in our society.  It holds all the sway, and pulls all the strings.  If I am lucky, I will end up with a small minority ownership stake.  I will take all my experience and knowledge, work my ass off, and then other's that haven't put in any effort will see the majority of the rewards. That is the way our system works.  It does not actually reward the hard worker, it rewards the person with the money.  And yes of course, this money was made and the financial investors risk may have transversed a different course, but that doesn't make past risks any more important than present ones.  Risking one's sanity and soul should carry a greater value than risking one's money.  

So what then do I do?  Is it even worth it?  Is it simply another good idea that may just not be worth pursuing because the system doesn't actually allow the individual to really take the initiative, but more for those with the money to dictate initiative?  It is in fact, my friend that is the exception to the rule.  She is the one percent of the US population that has been able to get 'there'.  If such a small group of people is there, then it is them that are the exception to the rule - not the almost 40 million people living in poverty in the US, or the rangy middle class that struggles to make ends meet, those with no insurance, the 17% un/underemployed (in real terms).  It is the rich that are the exception, it is those people that 'worked hard' and have made so much money that they are the exception.  But it is not that they have 'worked hard', it is that they have worked in a certain manner.  She is against regulating the banking industry (yes, she has, and her husband does work in finance), the industry that started this financial crisis, and that I lasted barely six months in for my first job before the ethics of it nearly destroyed me.  No, fact of the matter is that it is not about hard work (if that was the case the 'ditch digger' would be paid better), but it is about incessant drive, focus on personal individual wealth and 'growth', and a subtle disinterest in others (or at least the ability to overlook there plight).

I am not the exception, I am just another person out there trying to find a way to survive in this world through my own or any initiative for that matter.  But this is not truly possible for all.  If it was, I would have already succeeded based solely on my effort, experience, and education alone.  But that is not the case, I needed money to make things happen, and I didn't have it.  So those few living the exceptional (American) dream should enjoy it, because its far nicer than my, our nightmare...  ;)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Under Employed and Under Represented

I find it truly amazing and even humorous, that I wrote a letter to every possible representative of mine from local town government all the way up to US senate and house and have gotten so little feedback that it is almost insulting.  I wrote regarding my experience in applying to social services and wanted to see what could be done to make changes in the treatment of people seeking help.  It seems that nothing will be done regarding this though.  I got a couple of automated responses, one person from within the organization asking for the name of the individual/s I dealt with (I've heard nothing from them since I responded), one response telling me that times get tough and I should just keep my head up and keep trying, and one rep which covers the office location that I applied in - but not my home - that they weren't my rep and thus should look for help elsewhere.  As if the issue wasn't relevant to them even though it happened in their jurisdiction.  To one person's credit though, I did get a phone call expressing regret (Kudos to that rep), yet I have never heard anything since.  I sent things to probably 20 people and two emails, one phone call.  Sad.

But I'll tell you what is absolutely atrocious, is that I seem to have gotten my email address on the marketing and mass mailing lists of some of the representatives - none of which responded to my inquiry at all.  Are you serious?!?!  You are not actually interested in representing me, but you are interested in sending me your propaganda in an effort to tell me how great you are!!  Listen if you aren't going to help me (i.e. do your job) then don't expect me to help you - let alone like or vote for you.  No I understand that you have so many people to represent and its tough to speak to them all - but don't take my email and use it for your purposes but not respect efforts.  

But what can I really say, if it was just one person that didn't respond I could blame them, but it is not.  It is all of them, which means it is the system itself that produces representatives that don't actually represent the people they should.  These reps only care about getting re/elected, and as i only have two choices, can I really vote for someone else?  Does this incident actually matter?  I will bet you this though, if I was a wealthy donor I bet you they'd take my call, respond to my email, and maybe even take me out to a strip club and make sure I'm taken care of.  But no, I'm on food stamps.  I'm underemployed.  Just trying to put one foot in front of the other.  To make ends meet.  I can provide nothing for them, save fulfillment of their constitutional duty, their job description, and their own respect as they look in the mirror.  But then again, why would that ever be important?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Job Clearing House

The more jobs one applies to the more one realizes that the system is set up for us to fail.  I recently started approaching my job hunting in a different way.  I was simply looking at opportunities through various media sources and searches, but then more recently I started focusing more on networking type of opportunties, volunteering, etc.  My chances suddenly looked up.  People tell you about jobs you might not have found otherwise, maybe you even have conversations with people about them.  They'll "put in a good word... blah blah blah".  But then what?  I still have no interviews.  Friends, family, acquaintances, professionals, etc.  It doesn't matter how qualified I am.  Companies have hundreds of applicants to hire from, if I don't have the job title on my Resume/CV, ten others might, and probably do.

This is one of the foundations of capitalism - a 'reserve' labor force.  That is why they always say that 4% unemployment is actually good for the economy.  This 'excess' puts the strength at the negotiating table in the hands of the producers rather than the laborers.  This keeps wages down, as if one person doesn't want that job for that wage, there is always another one that will.  Think sweatshop labor in the developing world, they'll take what they can get just to have a job - no matter how suspect the conditions are.

So... what can be done to better employ others while we wait for 'systemic evolution'?  I had a thought the other day about how the job search process could be aided.  As the current problem is that the people that you are applying to really have no clue of who you are or what your work capabilities are (other than the two pieces of paper that you sent them), why not find a way to neutrally evaluate people.  A clearinghouse of sorts that could act as an evaluator of personal ability for prospective employers.  A way for them to 'know' more about you specifically, the things that don't necessarily fit neatly into bullet points on a piece of paper.  It is people, not experience, that get jobs done.

I guess the bottom line for me is that my experience doesn't fit nicely into a cookie cutter.  I have lived in many places, had many different jobs, and studying a quite a few different things.  But I don't have the step by step employment history that seems to be desired.  Does this mean I am not capable of doing the job or even perhaps doing it better than others?  Of course not.  As a friend of mine said, "I can't believe that these people I work with have jobs and someone as capable as you does not."  But that's the system we live in.  Everything is subjective and specified.   Gone are the days when you would walk into an office, shake a person's hand, and deliver your resume.  They see you, they interact with you for a moment, they get a sense of 'you' - not the narrative you.  Everyone interprets things differently and one piece of paper is never enough to sum up a life's work.  

So how about it?  What if there was an neutral agency that would evaluate people and give them a score or evaluation of some sort to show there current day capabilities.  There could be an interview process, resumes, recommendations, whatever. This would give everyone the chance to be 'interviewed'.  To become more than a piece of paper.  If a person can never sit in front of someone and state their case as a living breathing human being, how can they ever differentiate themselves from others?   

The True Value of Work

What a world, what a world we live in.  As you may have seen from some earlier posts, I am not exactly making ends meet these days.  I am underemployed and not finding 'gainful' employment.  But does this really matter?  So what if I did have a job?  I have a friend that is employed in their career path, through a respectable institution, and still has to take on other employment.  They went to school specifically to train them for the career they are in and they have had great success in working their way up the ladder to a management position.  Yet even with this position, they still can't quite make the ends meet as they'd like and are in danger of having to move back in with their parents.  As per the 'American Dream' and our 'ownership society' they should be trying to buy a home, yet instead they are realizing that just making rent may be too much.  There is something tremendously wrong with this picture.

What happened to the days fifty years ago when an entire family could live well and own a home off of a single salary?  Today a couple that has no children is in a tough spot simply trying to obtain a 30 year mortgage, let alone actually be able to pay off that loan.  So many people are defaulting, or never buying because they just simply don't have the means.  And not because they aren't trained, experienced, or good at what they do, but because jobs just don't pay as well enough.  My friend works a full time job, and now has picked up random work on the side: part time retail, some coaching, and high school officiating.  They are looking for other opportunities, trying to not have to move back home, trying to buy a home.  But come on, why should a person like this, trained, experienced, and good at their job not be able to make a functional wage?  This is the true sham of American society.  That hard working, qualified people still don't make enough, still can't have access to some of America's cornerstone dreams.

We as a country are closing the door on ourselves.  In an effort to make our selves richer, we are in fact making the most of us poorer as the system increases wages slower than prices.  My friend received a 3 percent raise this year - as mandated in their contract - yet their actual pay went down as the cost of their insurance went up.  This is before they even had any money to consume with and inflation makes the cost of goods higher (usually averaging 3%).  Since the 1970's real wages have been shrinking and people like my friend are definitely feeling the affects.

So would it matter if I even had a job?  They have a job, a good one on a career path that they are trained to do, and having success in.  But this doesn't matter, it doesn't even pay what is an appropriate living wage.  Fact of the matter is, we are all in trouble no matter what.  Job or no job, we just don't make enough money.  Something has to change...

Friday, March 26, 2010

How far can you pee?

I think it is worth listening to this piece about testosterone, and its possible contribution to the financial crisis we're in.  It was music to my ears.  For years I have attributed much of our problems to men.  As a man I feel the inner drive and determining aspects of self that push from within.  Granted no two people are the same, but I have seen what I would consider the dark side of men, and I work quite hard to tame it.  I have been a very big proponent of balancing man and women, of realizing an egalitarian leadership structure for our world. 

I always come back to the James Bond and Tomorrow Never Dies quote from "M" when it was proposed to her that perhaps she "didn't have the balls" for her job.  To which she replied: "that means I don't have to always think with them".  It has to me forever been a a perfect example of some of the world's problems.  I think that men are too agressive and with the systemic instilations of capitalism this is being accentuated.  We grow up, harnessing and instigating testosterone based lives.  We bocome arrogant and far to self-assured and asertive.

This show itself spent time looking at the biology of financial traders and the male dominated society that the financial industry is.  Even as evidence was being sited that showed how diversity and gender equality in corporate and decision making processes tended to lead to better performance, many people calling and commenting seemed to brush this possibility off as gendered grandstanding.  But I will say this, my first job was in finance, and I can tell you it was so thoroughly testosterone/machismo based and overtly arrogant that I got out as soon as I could.  I have been that guy, and I don't see how it is truly productive and helpful for society. 

The dialog itself was great, however I did have one issue with it though.  When it was brought up by a caller that to start thinking that testosterone could do such a thing would eventually lead to drawing a correlation between this male arrogance/agression and political policies throughout the world.  That wars such as the one in Iraq could have fallen sway to such biological inspiration it was quickly dismissed.  Not even worth discussion.  I certainly think that this is not only discussable, but likely.  I distinctly remember George Bush's hubris over attacking Iraq and his personal vengence for Saddam Hussein, who had 'tried to kill his daddy'.  And in fact, more importantly, the foundation of modern international relations theory - 'realism' - is continually compared to a 'pissing contest', or a 'my dick's bigger than yours' scenario.  It is not only not a stretch, but is wholly realistic to think that with possitions of power being domminated by men that the world is a much more 'testosterone' based place.  More machismo, more I'm bigger, I'm tougher, I'm stronger, you're weaker, you're smaller, you're lesser. 

Fact is, that if the world could find a way to balance itself in terms of gender in leadership roles we would get A, a leadership representative of our population, and B, a softer, less aggressive political and social lifestyle.  I am not saying that people would not still fight, but a world with less 'machismo' would certainly be a safer and far more inclusive and inviting place. I mean after all, why can't we all just be happy with whatever it is that we've got, no matter what 'size' it is? 

Factually Unprecedented

I was listening to a speaker the other day and they kept refering to past times and speakers as authorities.  They refered repeatedly to the founding fathers and the constitution repeated and to the 'original intents'.  I realized something that I had been harping on for a while, but suddenly made sense.  We base our entire informational lives on 'precidents'.  The american legal system is based on previous decisions, previous interpretations of laws and the constitution.  Our entire science system is also based upon 'standing on the shoulders of giants'.  We use what other people have said in the past and turn their interpretations of life into 'fact'.  When someone quotes 'Sir' Thomas Paine, what does that mean?  Does it mean that an idea is automatically a good idea?  Perhaps it was and is, but it also could not have been and is not.  I see no authority in the individual that spoke and/or the concreteness of time in regards to an idea, but think that ideas should stand on their own merits given current contexts, times and places.

Think about the US constitution.  It is one of the great documents of human history, but so were many other doctrines and legal foundations.  Slavery, Colonialism, Manifest Destiny.  Every society seems to have its reasons/rationales for doing what they think is/was right or wanted to do.  Yet customs and acceptible principles always change with time.  It was just over 50 years ago that  various races were legally different and people of some were seen as inferior to others - this still goes on in many places, legal or otherwise.  On top of those social implications, one look at the technological changes that has happened in our lifetimes - the internet for one - and nothing more needs to be said about changing contexts. 

We live in a highly fluid world and with each moment a new idea or technology changes the way the world acts and sees itself.  So why then must we hold so much faith in our 'precedents'?  Why is it that we think that a good idea yesterday is automatically a good idea today?  The constitution was revolutionary, but the founding fathers were living in a completely different world than we are today.  Do we really want to go back and live 250 years ago?  Do we want to give up all the trappings of modern life - transportation, medicine, food, shelter, security (if it is safer today) - and go back to a time without all of the 'luxuries' of today?  To forget all the lessons learned up to today?  No, I think most people do not.  As times change, so to must ideas and so to must our concepts of what live is and should be.

The US constitution was written for different times, just as Locke, Hobbes and all those great thinkers of the past were.  This does not make their ideas rubbish, but it also does not make them sacrosanct.  Every day should usher in a new day, and with this new day we should take nothing for granted - no matter how dear it is to our hearts.  Even the US constitution has its flaws and its areas of misinterpretation in current day.  No precedent is 'fact', and should never been seen as anything more than the current days 'most likely' scenario, or even better yet, as today's 'most educated guess'.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Depressingly Real...

So many people in America right now are in dire straights.  They can't pay the bills, they struggle to eat, lose their homes, can't find work, whatever an individual's reason is, so many are truly struggling.  The toll that this life style takes upon an individual can be immense.  Most everyone seems to have some aspirations, goals, desires, things that motivate them and things that they would like to get out of life.  When a person can not attain these goals, or at least feel like they are working towards them in the right direction, it is very easy to get down and to even sink into elements of depression.  The true problem with this is that our society seems only to accentuate these issues.  The system that we live in singularly promotes the individual and the individual's primacy in affecting all aspects of their life.  All of the onus for success is put in the individual's hands.  If a person is hard working, diligent, and talented they can easily find a way to success.

But what happens when society itself takes opportunities away from this person?  What happens when through no fault of individuals themselves, the world crashes into crisis, recession, depression?  A person with no job, no way forward - yet still with dreams, goals, and desires - is forced to face that life of need and want every day.  They apply to job after job - each one bringing a huge glimmer of hope - only to hear nothing back.  Every job application a person puts in has a piece of their heart and sole inside it. They spend hours writing a cover letter, redoing a resume to specifically fit each job, references, samples, getting other people to proof read it all.  An entire day can be spent on one job application. 

What then happens when over and over again, they receive nothing.  No response, no "sorry we decided not to interview you", no nothing.  They are left with a littel hole in their heart where all that effort and all that imagining went into an application.  And it slowly festers until they come to an evolutionary place of realization that that job is not going to call.  Every day, every week, job after job.  Its like cold-calling; you don't know the people at these companies and they don't know you.  You keep trying anyway, dial after dial, but they aren't interested in buying what your selling - you.  They have 300 plus applicants from all over the country.  What makes your piece of paper any better than anyone else's?  If you don't have the job title on your resume already, best of luck.

But what then?  What happens when each day you wake up and have less and less motivation to keep that job search going?  You start new pathways, networking, volunteering, friends, family, starting your own business, whatever.  But then if things still seem not to move in your direction, what's next.  Hopelessness sets in, your on food stamps by now, you struggle to pay rent and bills, an underemployed existence, degrees sitting on the walls collecting dust, right next to your intellect and your heart.

There you sit, is it really worth it to keep looking for another job?  What is the use?  What is it they say? Doing the same thing and getting the same bad result is the definition of madness?  At what point do you just start trying to maintain an existence?  Maintain sanity.  When do you just stop wasting your time?

But the true problem with it all is that it may not even actually be up to you.  The road paved above is one of despair, it is one of depression.  That is where this story seems to end up.  But then how does that play out?  How does one pull themselves out of a depressed state?  No health care to see someone about it.  No motivation to keep pushing.  Even knowing what needs to be done isn't enough, because you still have to get up and do it.  A general feeling of hopelessness as no help is to be found.  This is what our society does.  It puts all the onus on us as individuals to make our lives successful but then truly and fundamentally affects us on a systemic level.  How do you harness the power of your intellect, courage, and drive, if the system takes it away from you?  How do you work hard as an individual when medically speaking you have lost the capabilities?

People in states of depression don't take initiative, they don't jump up and keep fighting, they dont' care about the American dream as they have been defeated by it so many times that they are tired of fighting the same fight and continuing to lose.  It becomes biological, not just mental.  Yet our system still puts everything on our own shoulder.  How do you rise up and keep trying to fight the idiotic fight when you don't have the strength to stand?  How is this possible?  How is this fair?  How can we do this to good people?   

Friday, March 5, 2010

This is a pretty tough road to get to 'Democracy'

So I have a general issue that I want to contact my representatives about and it is NOT easy.  I want to contact both my national senators, as well as the relevant federal representatives.  My issue is county wide and of a federal nature given the program (more posts to come on this one).  My county spans three congressional districts, hence three relevant congress persons.  Then I need to add in my State senators (of which the county has two), and then the local and county representatives.  No big deal right?  Just get all their email address and send out one email no?  NO.  The national and statewide reps have fill in forms to send emails through (seven).  Meaning fill in all my personal details for each one, then my issue, etc.  This is really time consuming.  The local ones though offer regular email addresses, this is of course makes it much easier to contact all of them - well done.

But how much of a difference can the local ones make?  Actually, I decent amount when it comes to what I'm looking to do.  But given my issue, while local government can change some of the implementation, my query is bigger than just smiles.  Thus I want to send a letter to ALL the relevant representatives, on all levels.  How much time should I have to spend to be able to try to be democratic, to take my part in "rule by the people"?  If the process is made to be so difficult as to limit its usage, how does one expect to get true governmental feedback?  Or maybe they don't?  After all, if there was more feedback our representatives would have to hire more interns to weed through the messages, and have more representative issues on their plate.  Less feedback, less concerns, equals more 'efficient' government right?

Dear Miss Social Worker

So this is a letter that I hand delivered to the intake worker at the Dutchess Country  social services building following my application for social assistance.  I also emailed it to 20 representatives in the area that covered this office and my local officials.  I got two email responses and one phone call.  One was genuine, one was canned, and one was a boot-strap motivational speech.  Democracy at work, and our prejudices and social services programs at hardly working.

Dear Miss Social Worker,

On Tuesday I applied for Temporary Assistance with Dutchess County Social Services and was rejected. I understand that I do not meet the criteria and accept that judgment whole-heartedly. Any issue with this should surely rather be taken up with my congress person and legislative bodies. However, what I have a tremendously difficult time accepting is the way that you seemed to approach both me and my application. Yet still, I do not write this for me, but for everyone else that comes in your door looking for help and that you will probably approach the same way.

I thought that you were rude, inconsiderate, assumptive, and downright judgmental, without bothering to know me or anything of my situation. Yet you presumed to, and treated me as if I was automatically trying to take advantage of the system just by walking in your door.

Upon being told that I was not eligible, I asked: “so what other services are offered for people in my situation?” Your response was: “So you are asking me what we can do for you?” I was a bit taken aback, as it seemed kind of accusatory, and responded “I... guess so.” To which you responded in what I took as a very unhelpful and almost aggressive tone “What you should be asking is what you can do for yourself.” Wow!  Let me tell you what I've done for myself and why you shouldn't treat people that are exactly what the programs you provide, and tax payers give you a salary to provide, are supposed to help.

For over ten years I have been working, gaining business experience in management, marketing, fundraising, writing, research, and development all over the world. Educationally, I am at the end of a second masters degree.  The first of which is from the 30th ranked university in the world, and the second is in Sociology and Anthropology – of which poverty is one of my main focuses. Since I returned to the US in late spring/early summer, I have applied for many jobs I feel that am well qualified for, only to not even be given an interview. All my study abroad/educational experience, and I couldn't get an interview as a study abroad adviser with SUNY New Paltz even with connections at the school.   In my last job I was the lead employee in obtaining a 2.2 million dollar private investment, and as a former Division I and professional athlete with dyslexia, I thought I would at least get an interview for a fundraising position with the Special Olympics in Wappingers Falls, yet I didn't.  All that academics and athletics background, yet still no interview with Marist as an academic adviser for athletes. This last position received 152 applications in 7 days – the position was accepting apps for 2 months.   I have been applying for work, both in the area and the city, and not even getting interviews.   In my last position I was 'Senior Analyst, and Head of Research and Development' for a company trying to provide medical evacuation services to wounded people in Iraq and Afghanistan.  For all intents and purposes I was the number two person in the company and running day-today operations – all of the jobs I am looking at here are good options, but it is not like I am holding out, waiting for a similar job to my last.

I picked up part-time work (all the hours they'll give me) selling running shoes in a specialty store in New Paltz (a forty minute drive for a ten dollar an hour job).  I worked on finishing this second degree in my spare time, looked for work, even started trying to write a book.  Yet I realized that in the world we live in, and especially in this type of global economy, that if I want to be able to guarantee employment for myself and my future that I can't sit around and wait for others to 'give' me a job – I will have to provide it for myself.  Thus I have added starting a business to my work load, and am trying to learn websites, find a designer that will work for free, and continue to research and write content for the site. To make ends meet I am adding officiating of Women's Lacrosse (a sport I have never played), but this won't show much income for a few more months.   I am volunteering in local government doing organizational and administrative work, and tried to volunteer with non-profits and specifically with the Dutchess Community Action Program.  I almost got a job with them when I went in to apply for food stamps.  Funny how it was the only interview I've had since I've been back in the US and it was because they randomly liked me enough as I applied to ask me in for a job interview!! With luck this may work out if the position will actually get funding and exist.

So you ask me what am I doing to help myself?  Well, even being learning disabled I almost have two masters degrees, I've worked hard for over ten years, and am putting in seven day weeks and many 12 hour days balancing work for pay, volunteer work that may network me into a job or community, and entrepreneurial work that may allow me to never ask for assistance again.  Yes, I could probably take a High School kid's job working fast food, but if I did that, when would I be able to apply for work and get out of the 'cycle of poverty'?

Social services, are designed specifically to help people like me.  People that have come on tough times and just need a little help to get 'over the hump'.   Your assertions offended me.   My whole goal is to try to make a difference in the world, and I've been pushing and driving myself to do this for almost two decades.   I am working at 8 am and usually at 8 at night, every day – just ask my girlfriend how much time I have to spend with her.  I should be exactly the person that both you and the system want to help.  I will be a success story. Yet even with all this, I am not upset about me not getting temporary assistance.  I am upset for all the other people that won't get it and for how they will likely be treated by you – like criminals trying to take advantage of the system.

In 1996 we decided to 'end welfare as we know it', and as a result there aren't the support services that the rest of the industrialized world offers.  We leave people in need to largely fend for themselves.  And the worst part about it – and I was sad to confirm all the studies I had read that cited this – is that people are treated in a way that makes them not want to come back and ask for help again no matter how desperate things may get.  The whole goal of Social Services in this county, and maybe even country, is not to 'help' people, rather to try to have as few people as possible on the roles.   I was treated like that by you on Tuesday.   You did not want to help, you did not want to care, you did not even want to show me the respect that any human being deserved.  Perhaps you feel no empathy for people in need, maybe you think you are above the people that you are supposed to be helping.  Perhaps, the job itself has put this presumptive toll on you.  But if any of these are the case, then you should leave your position.  If you believe that everyone there is there to cheat the system, and you then treat them as 'criminally' minded, then find new work.  Because you are not only not helping people, but you are both hurting them and humiliating them.  And some – this must seem so hard to believe – but some, are actually working their tails off just to try to stay afloat in bad times.  Hoping that this hard work will pay off and leed to good times.


Timothy D. Weldon

PS. If you do decide this isn't the job for you, I've enclosed my resume. If you could please pass it on to the appropriate people I'd appreciate it.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

All Inclusive Democracy

Just a quick thought on... yes, democracy. I was just watching a newscast on Iraqi elections and saw that they have early voting for those in hospitals and prisons. Perhaps this is just about the workers themselves, but it brought up an issue that I have had for a long time with US democracy. How is it that if you are convicted of a felony crime in the US that you lose your right to vote? And I believe the same thing with a dishonorable discharge from the military. These people still live in the US, they are still US citizens and will be counted in the census, yet they are not allowed to participate in democracy!

Democracy is rule by the people, not rule by certain people, or the people that the powered structures and people deem 'best' to lead the country. It is in fact these people with 'dissenting opinions' on how society works that should be the essence of who's opinions need to be heard. People that have lashed out against the rule of law, are the people with the most to gain by change, while those in power are those with the most to lose (perhaps why those at the 'bottom' are being muted). Obviously it is not an issue that many people are fired up about as our society preaches non compassion for 'criminals', but they are just part of the system and deserve a voice within it just as much as anyone. They should be heard – at least, that is, if you want to claim that you are a democracy.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Poverty's Toll

The concept of poverty brings up a tremendous amount of passion and judgments. Most people have an opinion on either how people got into poverty or how they could/should get out of it. But lets put that part of the situation aside for a moment and focus on the actual situation itself (After all, there are plenty of people struggling right now because of a global economic crisis more so than any one thing they have done on their own). What is the actual toll on not just a person in poverty, but what the scenario can mean for their families and their other relationships as well.

Poverty itself is a situation that few people would willfully enter into given a more lucrative option. People want comfort and security in their lives. Poverty takes financial and living security completely out of the equation. Comfort is mostly subjective, but 'subjective' mostly given the surroundings a person lives in. If poverty is 'ok' socio-culturally then that person may be fine with it. If poverty is looked down upon by society then a person may end up ashamed and want to withdraw from that place of humiliation.

But the real toll of this situation comes in its effects on other people, families, and personal relationships. Most people are capable of handling themselves, finding a way to make it all work. Trouble usually comes when they have to look in someone else's eyes. A person looks in the mirror and they know the reasons for their situation, but look in your spouse's eyes, your children's eyes, mother's, etc. That is when things become tough for most people.

But the struggle in this situation does not end with one individual's humility, rather with what it does to these relationships with others over the longer term. Little money for a few weeks or a month – not such a big deal perhaps – but months, years? Look that spouse in the eye, its not the self humility that becomes tough, but the strain that 'life' comes to be under. The stress of the bills, the food, the housing, etc. This type of stress is felt by everyone – not just the one without the job. And sadly this is disproportionally felt by children. More than half of those in poverty in the US are children. It is not their fault, nor can they do much about it. But that does not mean they don't struggle just as much as anyone or feel the direct affects any less than an adult. Kids are as subject to external and peer pressures as anyone – if not more. If they go to school and they don't have things, they need special lunch assistance, they can't go places or do things after school that others may be able to, they feel the same shame, the same humility, but when they look in the mirror they don't see the same reasons the unemployed parents do. They just see the embarrassment, the dissatisfaction, their parents that can't seem to provide fro them. Some of these kids, turn this into blame and resentment. An estranged familial relationship the circles out of control from child to parent and back. And who is to blame? If a parent is laid off due to an outsourced job to Indonesia, is the parent at fault? Does it matter to the child? Maybe not.

Spouses are not much different. When a person commits their life to another person they look to that person for support, love, etc. But what happens when one person is not able to support their end of a bargain? What kind of strain does this put on a relationship? Is it easier to love in prosperity than in poverty? We all want to share in joy and success, but difficulty and despair are tougher to deal with. And then what happens when choices have to start being made, tough choices? There is no going out, little time with friends, no money spent of 'leisure' things or activities. When does that person become less worthy? Life becomes stressful. Which bill do you pay this month, can you make rent, is today meat or veggies? Should we cut out or down the health insurance? What kind of decision making positions does this put people in, and in-turn what kind of pressure is a relationship put under? Choices between 'necessities' can lead to arguments, disagreements, fights. If you don't have to make those tough choices, would a disagreement ever takes place?

I am not illuminating anything new here, poverty is felt by all, even those that don't realize it or ever see it directly in front of them. From loved ones, to children, to simple friends, to strangers, society is wrapped up in its affects. It is important to recognize the pain, the pressure people come under, and it is important to try to understand this feeling and sympathize with it. A person in poverty is struggling inside and out. This is where we need to start our thought process rather than in spending so much time trying to assess blame for 'why' and 'how'. In doing this we forget about the 'what' that is happening. People in society – and their families – need society's support, not their pity, their indifference, or malice.   

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Why so much Democracy?

I can't figure it out.  All this time abroad and I never considered myself a big proponent of 'democracy'.  But here I am, back in the 'heart of democracy' and I now find myself just wanting to push it and push it.  And I've realized why.  Because I DON'T HAVE IT HERE.  What I am living in here in the US is a really sad version of a beautiful concept, but not democracy.

Democracy is 'rule by the people'.  We do not have this in the US.  Representative democracy as we use it is not making me feel like I have anything to do with 'ruling' myself, or even being a part in 'ruling' the world around me.  Even if my representative would listen to me, what power do they have?  What can one individual congressperson do?  They certainly can't institute any policy.  They need compatriots, backers, outside influence, money, political intrigue, and whatever else it is that one needs to pass legislation in this country.  But the one thing they don't need is 'me'.

I mean, I don't have to vote.  No matter who is in power, they are so polarized and entrenched in 'no for the sake of no' politics that any attempt by me to 'rule' as a person is complete folly.  Think of it, I vote in New York state, there is no reason for me to vote in national elections.  Over 60% of the voting populace historically votes Democratic, out of 7.5 million my single vote will not swing that.  And our system, and especially the electoral collage, gives a winner take all mentality to all politics - presidential, national, and even local - and as 2000 showed us, the popular vote means nothing in the presidential race.

So why vote?  If our system makes it mean nothing, what is the point?  Winner take all.  There is no parliamentary democracy as in Europe (and is being adopted in 'new' democracies throughout the world) where representative seats are filled in proportion to voting.  If this was the case in New York, at least then if it was 63% or 62% in one way or the other my vote might matter.  But even this line of thought doesn't matter.  American's are so entrenched in their singular belief that the American constitution is the greatest political document ever that there is absolutely no reason to think of modifying it.  Regardless of its original virtues, the evolution of it has put us on a slippery slope of intransigence today.  

You can't make life better if you are not willing to explore other ways of living it - other ways that may actually be better - and then learn from then and even incorporate aspects of them into your life.  Our democracy - if that is what it is - can and NEEDS to be better.  I want a say, I want a democratic voice.  I want to have a 'ruling' aspect over my own life and to help rule the rest of the world I live in.  But as is, I don't.  I don't have a say on anything of pertinance, on anything beyond the most local of levels.  US democracy is an illusion.  You really don't have any say...


Where do you come from?

Where is it that we are citizens of?  Do we live in one neighborhood?  One city?  One state or province?  One country?  One region?  One world?  One universe?  One still unknown thing that we haven't discovered yet?  At what stage of this process do we differentiate ourselves? Usually we differentiate ourselves wherever along this spectrum we need to in whatever present company we are keeping, and usually this is about differentiating ourselves from that specific company.  Thus, if you are in new york city you differentiate yourself as being from the upper east side, the village, brooklyn, whatever.  But as soon as you leave new york city, you are now from 'the city' if you're in the region, or 'new york' if further afield.  If your in a place where the discussion changes to nationalities, all of a sudden ones' identification changes to being 'an American'.  'Europeans' can identify themselves as such regionally and then by country as needed.

But outside of sci-fi movies who identifies themselves as 'citizens of the world', or of 'the universe'?  There is no need to do this in our daily lives, where we are trying to find some way to separate ourselves from the masses of humanity and other living things that we share our places with.  We do this simply because there are no things 'not from this world' or 'not from earth' to differentiate ourselves from.  This is a shame.  Because it is specifically the type of differentiation that we keep undertaking that leads us to focus and judge specifically on the places that we claim, and not on those that we leave be.  All of a sudden various parts of the world are not as important as "our own" - the ones we immediately identify with.  But how can this be?  We breath the same air as someone in china, we share the same biological features as someone in Africa, eat the same foods as someone in South America, and live amongst many of the same trees and soil types as someone living in Europe.  Why then is it that we must differentiate - and in turn - prioritize areas of the world as more or less important to us?

Ultimately the world is one holistic entity that works together and feeds off of every aspect of itself - including the universe it itself inhabits.  So why then do we all not consider ourselves citizens of the world?  Why is one nation and/or its citizens deemed as more or less important or valuable than another's?  Why do we not claim equal right to existence with the other 'citizens of the world' we share it with?  Humans, animals, plants, insects, bacteria, algae, what-have-you.  The world is in-fact bigger than our own specific places in it. Shouldn't we value them all as being equally important?


Governance is a tricky concept.  It implies that something will get done, some form of 'leadership' will guide something in a functional and productive direction.  But how does it work?  I mean how do you make something truly function?  How does a group of people or situation get 'governed'?  Think about it in political terms, it would seem that we would be talking about anything from local to national or international politics, and finding a way to productively facilitate and manage a smooth running 'government'.

Looking at local politics in the US I have one quick observation to make.  People have to want to be 'governed', and they have to actually know what being that actually is.  Wanting to be governed would imply that one is willing to accept the system they live in, and be willing to trust in it and give themselves to it.  If a person does not realize how democracy (and the mandate for leadership/the institution of policies it creates) exists, and that with this mandate comes a legitimate ability to do certain things, then how is an individual to understand why or how other aspects of governance will function?

With an election in a representative democracy, a new mandate is given by the people to the elected individual to represent them throughout the governance process.   They elect her/him given the platform and 'promises' promoted during the campaign.  In our system in the US it is a simple majority that takes all.  We do not live in a parliamentary system where a proportional number of 'seats' go to the proportional percentage of votes received.  Flat out 50.000000000001% takes the seat and the loser goes home.  This winner can then say that the majority of the people supported their campaign platform and thus they should try to institute it to the best of their ability.

So why would anyone be at odds with a person with this mandate trying to institute there democratically given authority?  It would seem only because they don't know what democracy is really about.  And unfortunately most people don't really understand this.  They get caught in a world seen through blinded eyes.  This is so truly sad.  Just to simply open our eyes and ears to see and hear the things around us, would allow us to learn so many new things, to think about different options, and even to understand how it is that these things could actually have come about or brought into place.  Governance is about a leader finding a way to make things work, and a person about finding a way to let themselves be lead.  Even if we didn't vote for, and don't want to be lead by, the person leading us that is the system we live in.  If you want a more representative democracy, change the system, if you want a more direct democracy, change the system.  Right now I struggle to find much of either in the US system.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Are we taught not to care, or do we really actually not care?

When it comes to trying to change our lives, to truly affect the worlds we live in, why is it that we really take and ask for so little power?  We claim to live in a democracy, a free society, but so few of us really ever use it.  Only half of us really vote, and even in that case it is usually just once a year and though we can write our representatives, rarely do.  Why is it that we are so thoroughly disinterested as a populace?  There are all sorts of theories put forth by academics, and even formulas to predict what leads to democratic participation.  But regardless of each theory, my question comes not in 'what' or 'why', but 'how'.  I wonder, if we don't care, is it because society shows us so many distractions and overloads us with the rest of our lives 'priorities', that we are simply taught to make other things more important and that our voice is just to small to make much of a difference.  This line of thinking would imply that we really actually do care about how the world affects us, and that it is society that teaches us to prioritize ourselves and our time in other more 'docile' directions. 

The alternative to our apathy being taught is that we actually don't really care.  That it is not someone or something else teaching us what we are or should be, but that we simply inherently content living a life with someone else controlling the big things - someone else 'representing' us and making decisions for us.  In democracy this 'other' would be an elected offical, or in another context it could be god or similar 'profound' power.  But this is the true question, whether we actually want to control our lives or are happy to allow it to happen for us (for the most part).

What do you think?  Are you content to let politicans, corporations, supernaturals and/or the like make your life happen?  Or are you more interested in taking control of the way the world interacts with you?  This may seem like a stupid question as most people think they control their lives.  Yet this is exactly the point.  We think we control our lives because we get up as we do, we eat what we do, we go places as we do, etc.  But why do we do these things?  What happens when we get there?  If we buy things like food, is it due to someone else's marketing campaign?  Is when we get up in the morning dictated by when our employer says we need to be somewhere?  Who is it that actually dictates whether there are even jobs out there to have?  We follow the 'rules' and 'laws' of society that someone else has designated for us to follow, and they vary by locale, country, culture, whatever.  We basically do not really make the things around us happen as we want them to, but rather work within the confines of the things that are dictated to us. 

So my question really is this, why?  Why do we not take more initiative?  Is it because the system puts us in positions that don't really reward this type of behavior or maybe just don't promote it?  Is it because certain individual actors keep us without truly knowing or understanding the amount of power we actually could have?  Or, is it the other side.  Is it that we just don't really want to control things?  Is it easier to use politics or religion and allow others or 'god' to control our lives?  To leave it in 'his' hands. 

I must admit that I have always thought that this is/was a taught thing.  That the system/people that run things don't want us to actually rise up and voice things as we would like them because this would disrupt their balance/position of power.  But of late I am begining to see that even given proding and an inkling of awareness, that most people are not really that motivated to make a difference, to try to control their own destinies, and make the larger factors that affect their lives more to their liking.  But then I keep coming full circle.  Even upon thinking about it all and becoming somewhat aware, if these people don't take the initiative, is it because it is too late?  That they have already been taught not to care?  Or is it actually innate?  Do we as humans find it easier to give up our power, is it easier - simpler - to give responsibility to others? 

How can we find out?  How is it that we can care?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


"Yet rarely has the political system seemed more polarized and less able to solve big problems that involve trust, tough choices and little short-term gain."
 This is the same old story.  We are not doing anything new, not trying anything different.  We are just entrenched in our same old thinking and politically entrenched ways.  Why bother trying to find solutions, compromises, or even alternative ideas, when you can just argue about he said she said, and I'm right your wrong!?  A polarized two party system is just NOT THE ANSWER!!  We need more political parties, we need more political dialog - and the current interpretation of the US constitution, and the system that has engulfed it, is just not working...  We need two rounds of elections...  one to vote your conscience, one to vote for your leaders...  right now we have no idea about people's conscience.

“These days I wonder if this country is even governable.”

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Disturbing Segregation

It is a shame that American's don't see some of the most noteworthy benefits of their own country.  America is a melting pot.  Every American is taught this from the day they start school and is 'marketed' as a positive thing.  This is claimed to be one of the reasons that the country is so 'tolerant', the country is after all made up of almost nothing but people from different places (and the few native americans that weren't killed off...).  So why is it that American's don't actually relish in the cosmopolitan opportunities of their own society?  We revel openly in the stories of splendor and vibrance with our diversity, but then upon a closer look, we are afraid of living in or visiting certain neighborhoods and/or cities where we could actually see and experience this.

When we look at the composition of our cities and neighborhoods there are always the distinct areas of/for certain ethnic groups.  Chinatown, Little Italy, Harlem, etc, every ethnic group seems to have its little enclaves throughout the country.  There are obvious practical reasons for this given migration issues and attempts to gain footholds in new areas.  But what then of the average white person that has been living in the US for multiple generations and does not want to live around "those types of people"?

The majority of whites in the US live in "racially isolated" areas.  Meaning that throughout most of their day they interact almost exclusively with white faces and white american culture - no diversity, no new ideas, no semblance of a different way of living from their own.  This is viewed as fine.  People want to move to areas or certain neighborhoods to be around people they 'identify' with, are of the same ethnic categories, income levels, backgrounds, whatever.  But how is this a melting pot?  How does this promote integration?  And most importantly, how does this possibly promote understanding of the realities of the world?

We as a society are isolating ourselves from the world we live in.  In terms of economics specifically, we do whatever it takes to block out a vision of the 'underclasses'.  We don't drive through the ghetto, never mind live and experience the lifestyles there.  This type of understanding and experience is important.  Kids should not grow up privileged - and by this I do not mean to make them pay for part of their car or to make them earn their own spending money.  I mean that kids should grow up in, around, and involved with people of all aspects of life - colors, creeds, economic capabilities, sexual preferences, etc.

American society today is voluntarily segregated specifically against this type of integration, and we are losing ourselves because of it.  We look at society and we say, I don't want to live there - there is to much crime, or poverty, or trailer parks... maybe its too rural, to 'black', to 'white', to whatever.  How can we as individuals ever expect to truly understand other people, let alone the world we live in, if we are unwilling to actually experience it for ourselves?  "I don't want my kids to grow up there because...."  Because you don't want them to actually see the way the rest of the world actually is.  For if they saw it, they might not like it, maybe even want to change it.  And that of course would force us to see it... to realize it exists... and maybe, just maybe, to even feel bad about it...