2010


Psychology and Social Issues24 Dec 2010 02:20 pm

In this post I’d like to explore the ramifications of a style of our being in the world which is related to voyeurism. Let’s first start with standard dictionary definition of the term voyeur.

voyeur |voiˈyər; vwä-|
noun
a person who gains sexual pleasure from watching others when they are naked or engaged in sexual activity.
• a person who enjoys seeing the pain or distress of others.

Some thirty years ago I wrote a song called Voyeurs. In the song I took some liberties with the literal definition of voyeur and broadened out its meaning beyond the strictly sexual context. In Voyeurs I focused on a person’s ability to get “turned on by” or “get off on” seeing while not being seen (noticed).

Voyeurs

To the city at an early age
Came a man who would remain back of the scenes
From a town where he was always viewed
In the din he felt serene for he could be

Voyeurs, voyeurs

Got a job on the telephone
Selling siding for one’s home
Good, but not content
Even though he liked much music
From TV he got his kicks
Watch but not be seen

Voyeurs, voyeurs

Found a job as a cameraman behind a one way mirror
Such a rush for him to doubly disappear
Love to see people with guilt on their faces
Then arrested by his anonymous look

Voyeurs, voyeurs

Took his camera to TV
Never felt so complete
Got his lucky break
Now he’s going to a war zone

Bullets flying everywhere
Bodies falling in the square
His camera whirring like his mind
He’s no longer there

Feels the power of life and death
This invisible god this astralette
Feels so strong and able
His goals been reached

A little later on that week
Apollo decides his time has peaked
Takes a gun to help him do
Only what a god must do

(To hear song, got to music tab and then go to Life in the Shadows CD.)

_____________________________________________________________

In the first verse the songs main character, Apollo, moves from a small town to a city. He loves the noise and activity of the city and enjoys avoiding the gaze of all those who knew him in his small town.

In his first job he was able to retain his preferred anonymity by being a faceless voice as a telephone solicitor. Though Apollo needed to remain outside the view of others view, he wanted to see, observe and watch them.

He found his second job of manning security cameras at a large store more rewarding, In this setting he could watch while remaining anonymous. He also got off on the power he had having shoplifters be arrested and their lives altered by his anonymous gaze.

Later he became a TV cameraman and enjoyed his growing influence and anonymity. When he was assigned to cover a war, Apollo felt like he had begun to realize his life’s purpose.

Covering the war he felt powerful, alive and completely invisible. The warring soldiers acted as if he was not there, with bullets zinging by and hitting their targets Apollo was able to walk on totally undetected.

Now convinced that he had become completely invisible Apollo reasons he must now be a bodiless spirit. Since he has become an invisible being that sees and is unseen, that can alter and determine the fate of others Apollo concludes he must be a god. Apollo, now God, takes gun in hand, and must do only what a god can do, and that is decide who lives and who dies.

In some ways the song depicts the birth of a psychopath, but it also epitomizes an extreme form of a way of being in the world which is very common. In this respect it calls into question the health and benefit of the ideal of objectivity and the goal of non-attachment commonly sought in science, religion and spirituality.

A review of the influences on my life while I was writing Voyeurs may be helpful in understanding what the goal and intention of its lyrics were. This will also help in understanding why this issue has remained pertinent to my current existence.

When I wrote this song I was working at a residential facility for delinquent youth. Many of the more difficult clients had mental health issues which fell or would now fall into diagnoses such as sociopath, psychopath, borderline personality, schizophrenia, and other such personality disorders. In many cases I noted how a progressive break with reality or human relationships was endemic to their pathology.

At this same time I was reading more than any other time in my life. My interests were in psychopathology (work related), phenomenology and Taoism.

My interest in all three was in identifying and experiences life as it actually happens. In Taoism I found the beauty and wisdom of learning about ourselves through our relationship with nature and the cycles of life. In phenomenology I learned how to “bracket” all our preconceptions and be open to experiencing and describing life as it authentically occurs. In psychopathology I learned how amazingly complex and rich normal human experience is by contrasting it with the experience of those who have suffered physical and neurological damage.

When I wrote Voyeurs I was performing at clubs with the band Ekstasis (scroll down to previous post). As you recall the band was named after the Dionysiac pagan ceremony whereby people “got beyond themselves” (ecstatic) through rich theater combined with pounding rhythm and song.

If you also recall that while the Dionysiac cults celebrated visceral life, the Apollo based cults revered the world of beauty and pure ideals of Plato. In an effort to blend the ecstatic visceral world of Dionysius with the cerebral and aesthetic world of Plato that I, being the lead singer of Ekstasis, referred to myself as Apollo.

In this manner I could avoid the pitfalls of both mediums. Through Ekstasis I could remain anchored in the sensorial world of visceral ecstasy without losing the ability to understand, savor and describe that experience to myself.

In the song Voyeurs Apollo is untethered to the sensorial world. He does not interact and participate in life, but only watches others. Apollo does not relate to or feel embraced in the bosom of nature and humanity. He is a detached observer who is objectively removed from the spectacle he observes. Apollo does not participate in life, he does not feel that he is connected to the world he breathes in or the people who he sees.

There is much literature which supports the idea that our sanity depends on our not feeling isolated and totally alone. Not only do we need touch and care as infants, but we all need to be seen and recognized by others, including animals to remain mentally healthy. The more removed, detached and isolated we are or think we are, the more prone to depression, anxiety and mental pathology we become.

An further exploration of the term Ekstasis might help understanding why I chose it to represent the goal of my life and not only my art. As I’ve said the word Ekstasis literally meant “to get beyond oneself”. Yet, in the ceremony one got beyond oneself by uniting in ecstasy with others and nature.

Ekstasis symbolized a total immersion and union with the world and with all people. It was the ability to get beyond one’s sense of self, one’s sense of isolation and merge with the very pulse of life. The reason I named the singer Apollo was to insure that this immersion with the audience and with life, was not blind and totally animalistic. Having Apollo partake, and even lead the ceremony, made sure that this immersion was done, with intelligence and sensitivity and did not revert to chaos, violence or domination.

It seems to me that we are so opposed to our animal nature. We use our inhibitions to cast our animal nature in a purely negative light. Our fears and inhibitions inspire us to make our human and animal nature things to master, overcome and deny.

In science we strive for objective, mathematical and logical truth. In the human sciences we often dwell on the foibles, shortcomings and illusions of our senses, our sense of self, and consciousness. In both pure and human sciences the goal is usually to overcome our animal and human nature. Yet, since we are animals and humans that experience life though our senses, and with our bodies, it necessitates that we denigrate our sensorial experience.

Likewise, the goal of the spiritual world, is to once again deny or overcome the sensual and animalistic nature of man. Spiritualist talk of the pain of attachment, and the illusion of the profane world. They speak of eternal essences, of spirit, the prison of the body, and the folly of the ego.

Yet, the truth of the matter is that we experience love, joy, meaning, satisfaction and empathy because of and through our bodies and animal nature, and not despite this carnal nature.
I think it is natural for those who demonize the body, our animal nature, and who feel the world an illusion to disrespect and destroy nature and their fellow men. When one’s eyes are on Absolute Truth, Supreme Beings, and the eternal, the day-to-day happenings of the real world can seem insignificant and vain.

It is this very detached perspective that I find dangerous and pathological. I think the sick attitude of Apollo in Voyeurs is cultivated and shared by many in our culture and on our planet. It is mainly a matter of degree as the differences between the average person and Apollo is quantitative and not qualitative.

Yes, the degree is significant, but one can’t help but wonder what percentage of war and depression could be averted if we learned how to embrace our humanity and our vital connection with nature. When we denigrate or ignore our own experiences it is easy to minimize the importance of the lives and experiences of others and of every living being on the planet. In many ways a return to animism would be a step forward, yet a larger step forward would be to truly appreciate the beauty and wonder that gives animism its compassion and wisdom.

Jim Guido

Music and Philosophy and Psychology18 Dec 2010 11:56 am

The name of my first band was Ekstasis and while I was aware of some of the reasons I chose that rather exotic name for a rock band, many other reasons have been realized through the years. While I was trying to make an artistic and personal point by the name, in many ways Ekstasis has become a symbol of a lot of my life’s purpose. In some ways the concept of Ekstasis has been an underlying thread of my life adventure.

Way back in the early 70’s I was a precocious lad who like most adolescents felt a little out of synch with society and my peers. The bulk of my early years I was relatively intelligent and academically lazy person who favored sports, socializing, and activity over books and reading. Though a straight A student through all of elementary school and most of high school years I rarely, if ever, read my text books. My natural gifts with numbers and my ability to maximize class lecture time allowed me to succeed in classes and tests with ease.

Yet, late in my high school years my rebellious ways led me, with the help of my older brother, to take delight in philosophical thought. By senior year, when not engaged in sports or conversation, I spent the bulk of my time reading phenomenology, comparative religions, psychology, structuralism, mythology, cultural anthropology and the like. I seldom read any fiction and most of that was either negative utopias or existential philosophical literature.

Due to a lack of constant sexual relationships and an excess of mundane conversation I began to feel alone and misunderstood. In the realm of physical activity and sport I continued to feel properly stimulated and rewarded. Yet, when it came to interpersonal relationships I felt deprived and somewhat stagnant.

During the last year of high school I began to write essays and poems which were an expression of my desire and discontent while at the same time a plea to my contemporaries to live life more passionately. I had friends from a variety of artistic and philosophical attitudes and did greatly enjoy dialoguing with them. Yet, in the long run I felt many of our conflicts and disagreements were petty and were a sign of intellectual distance and not really grounded in how we felt and experienced life.

In had noticed that many of the intellectual conflicts I had with females disappeared the more physical our relationship became. It seemed that the more they really felt and experienced me the more they understood what I was really saying. Likewise I found camaraderie much easier on the basketball court than through any abstract discussion regarding sport or any specific game plan.

At was at this time that I began to have the courage to sing at parties. A friend of mine remarked that my voice was more expressive and powerful than most but my sense of pitch was woeful.

He gave me a guitar and told me that playing and singing would probably solve the pitch problem. Within months I was writing songs on a regular basis.When I was in my 20’s I wrote over 20 songs a year and even now in my 50’s I still manage to write between 10 and 12 a year.

During this time period I was reading about the thoughts of Socrates and Plato in the context of the birth of rational thought. This is where I stumbled across the difference between the cults of Apollo and Dionysus. In simplest terms the cults of Apollo revered the rise of rational thought with emphasis being placed on perfection, purity, the sublime, absolutes, and the Platonic ideals. The Dionysiac cults were very visceral and whose goals were more pagan and cathartic, where ecstasy and a sense of unity was the goal.

The texts I was reading talked of a ceremony called Ekstasis where the goal was to get beyond oneself, to alter the static and forge a union with the other. In these states all divisions between people’s vanished and they were organically and ecstatically united with each other.

What I particularly found fascinating with the description of Ekstasis was how the goal of getting beyond oneself and ecstatically merging with others was achieved. The cult was known for its fusing of many different artistic elements, there was poetic performance, percussive and rhythmic dance, along with a crescendo of music and even the performance of a play. This unrelenting sensorial and mental barrage of stimuli allowed the participants to go into a semi-trance state and merge in a world with no demarcation between body and mind, or the self and the other.

In my writing I had begun the skeleton of what was to become my philosophy of intimacy (you can read Exploring Intimacy in the words section of this site), in which I see intimacy as an inherent basic human drive. In this drive we are always oriented to become closer to and strive to merge with not only others, but knowledge, our self, music, nature or whatever else attracts our attention and interest.

The ceremony of Ekstasis spoke to the very goal of my music. I wasn’t just trying to entertain through my music, but to transform my audience into experiencing the very pulsing of visceral life. The goal of my music was to generate a merging of performers and audience into an ecstatic experience celebrating the wonder of life and our drive towards human intimacy and deep connection.

Where I often found myself feeling misunderstood in intellectual abstract conversation I felt that the same ideas presented in lyric and accompanied by the emotion of voice and instrumentation better succeeded at accomplishing deep expression and intimacy. Petty debates over terms and syntax were erased by the fullness and rawness of a musical/theatrical celebration of life.

On stage I wasn’t just heard I was experienced. In order to effectively accomplish this task I began to refine my presentation by taking jazz dance, ballet and mime. Even though I felt good about my music and the energy and ambiance created by the band, I do feel the exoticness of the band was often difficult for a club environment.

In the seventies the orgiastic music dominated by pounding rhythm seldom contained any intelligence, and songs with thoughtful lyrics with aspirations of social change fell into either the folk or high brow camp. Most people who went to the bars and local clubs were into getting drunk, getting laid, dancing or being engulfed by a wall of sound. While some people enjoyed the power and theater of my music few appreciated or even heard the lyrics. Those who were into thoughtful and poetic words were often turned off by the power and rawness of the music.

I have often referred to my music as art posing as music, and I realized that most local clubs were meat markets where people went to be entertained and not to be transformed. Though we had some good nights, the band never succeeded at creating the orgiastic environment of my dreams.

I probably would have had more success if I stayed more loyal to the corybantic nature of the Dionysus Ekstasis. There were plenty of metal bands whose driving rhythms did accomplish a form of hypertensive ecstasy. The theatrical element was difficult to pull off in small clubs and was better suited for larger venues which some of my performing idols such as Bowie, The Tubes, Jethro Tull, Peter Gabriel and Roxy Music were able to successfully integrate into their music.

Yet, what I hoped to accomplish was both the Apollo and Dionysus aspect in a single format. Dionysus without Apollo can become chaotic and blind ecstasy. It can quickly become pure escapism or potentially violent chaos. I wanted a balance of forces.

I felt that intelligence without the body can become empty and arrogant and that ecstasy without thought can become destructive and irresponsible. When I sang on stage I thought of myself as Apollo performing at a Dionysiac Ekstasis.

In my life I worried of becoming too self-absorbed and just living in my head. I saw the sciences as becoming too absorbed in being objective and divorcing themselves from the real world. In fact I perceived science often treating the planet, animals, and even others as just objects to be studied and manipulated for abstract principles and logical ideals.

Likewise I saw religion and spiritualism avoiding real lived reality by finding refuge in the eternal or the universe. Even though Science and Spiritualism posed themselves as opposites I saw them as two horns of the same animal. In both cases real life was objectified and transcended. Science and spiritualism had absolutes and eternal Truths, which portrayed life as an illusion and unworthy of our respect. Science has mind, and spiritualism has spirit and both have a tendency to devalue and sometimes even demonize the very body which makes experience (life) possible.

In the objectified scientific and transcendent spiritual worlds terms such as mind, spirit, god, thought, intuition, the absolute, supreme being, logic, truth, consciousness and Platonic Ideals are all refined and superior to the body and/or have separate existences that transcend of will outlive the body. For me, then and now, life is a wondrous process whereby all my perceptions and experiences are housed and made possible by my having a body.

My body, the world and my consciousness are all aspects of my experience. None are expendable or inessential. The world is not separate from me, and is not fully outside of me. There is no clear demarcation of where the world ends and my body begins and where my body ends and my consciousness begins. At every moment I live because I breathe, and at every moment I’m breathing in the world which sustains me and creates the experiences which create my sense of self and my personal history. When I exhale I give life to plants and trees just as my perceptions have me sense the aliveness of others and nature.

These are the kind of observations, perceptions and thoughts which make Ekstasis possible. At every moment I dance with life, I suck in its essence as it awaits mine. The gaze of others, birds and animals prevent me from feeling alone and keep me sane.

What need do I have to transcend or overcome? If you ask me to choose between human experience or perfection, I choose the ecstasy of the human life world.

How about you?

Here are some lyrics that pose the interactive beauty of a sensorial life that “makes sense” rather than seeks Truth or Absolute Essences. You can hear this song on the Go! CD in the music section (tab).

The World Touches Me
4/26/2008

What I do see is more than I see everyday
What I do feel is more than I sense
Sometimes the world touches me
Keeps me company while I think

I shoot out thoughts like a Tommy gun
Words pour out in rapid runs
Painting the world that is me
Making the world I am to be

Wonder fills my joy
Laughter seasons the stew I’m steeping
Every day is a feast
So much to taste of which comforts and awakens
Sometimes the world touches me
Talks to me while I think

Sharing all our days
Gives my life dimension widens my perception
Listening to the rain
The rhythm is dreamy soothes like honey

Every breath I take
Is filled with wonder new world to uncover (discover)
Everything takes shape
Random seeks order when the world touches me

Jim Guido

Politics and Social Issues10 Dec 2010 03:16 pm

It is often noted that the best aspects of human nature come forward during times of emergency, crisis, and disaster. When a land is devastated by flood, hurricane, cyclone, earthquake or a volcanic eruption the entire world sets aside its differences and bands together to provide aid and succor for the victims. In times of need the general populace lends their hands and opens their hearts and wallets to assist those in crisis.

In my personal experience in human services I have often been amazed at how the poorest and most disadvantaged will share any money, food or gift they happen to stumble upon with their family or friends who are also in need. Some of the greatest acts of kindness and charity I have witnessed has come from those with the least resources.

Yet, the fact of the matter is there are many on our planet that are in crisis each and every day. While some events and situations make head lines and touch many hearts inspiring incredible acts of charity, there are many that somehow never rise to a level of getting people to truly make an impact or save lives. Each day thousands if not millions of people are starving, or suffering from some other form of life threatening need which goes unattended.

Let’s look at the following questions.

Do we have enough food to feed the entire planet?
Do we have enough resources to provide shelter and sufficient protection from the elements for all human beings?
Do we have the resources to educate and provide access of information to people allowing them to improve themselves and acquire their needs?
Do we have the resources to provide basic quality health care to all those desiring these services?

The answer to these questions is in most cases a solid yes, and in other cases at worst we can say that we have resources for the great majority of people. Yet, despite having these abilities and resources millions of people each day are doing with out and suffering unnecessarily. It is often said that we have a distribution problem and not a lack of resources.

According to Wikipedia, the fundamental purpose of government is the maintenance of basic security and public order. I would also say that from a philosophical level the reason for government has often been described as a means to protect the people through the enforcement of law. These definitions of government would be in contrast to anarchy where the lack of law could result in mob rule, and a relatively primitive form of survival of the fittest.

The fact of the matter is that governments are failing miserably at their basic function. We have the ability and resources and governments rather than being the vehicle for providing citizens with basic needs and securities have become the major obstacle of these basic needs being established and provided.

Providing people with food, shelter, clothing and health care is by definition the least we can do for people. We as individuals need to help make sure that governments fulfill their basic function, rather than their being agents of war and division which through fear and hatred keep our hearts and hands from providing others with the basic needs for human survival.

When millions of people are in crisis, providing for their basic needs is job one. No government is deserving of praise, respect or the support of their citizens until they are devoted to ending the suffering of all our contemporaries. In times of crisis individuals are able to put aside differences in ideology, belief and politics to focus on the matter at hand, We now need our governments to have a heart at least as big as the majority of its citizens.

It truly is the least we can do. And until we do it, it really is hard to say we have accomplished anything.

Jim Guido

Economics and Social Issues04 Dec 2010 09:31 pm

I feel that Capitalism is often given too much credit for causing the growth in the standard of living and quality of life that many in the industrialized world have experienced over the last century or so. Though admittedly it has at times played a significant role in these areas, it has also been an impediment to progress as often as has been a cause of improvement in the quality of life.

One mistake often made is to equate capitalism with the industrial revolution, where in truth the industrial revolution made modern capitalism possible. I would be more comfortable saying that capitalism has been a beneficiary of the industrial revolution rather than a cause of it.

The following excerpt by a blog written by Richard K. Moore will emphasize the relationship and distinction between capitalism and the industrial revolution.

“A new way of creating fortunes had been born. Instead of slowly amassing wealth over a lifetime, or risking a voyage in search of treasure, there was now a systematic way to amass wealth relatively quickly.  A person with money to invest could seek out the latest leading-edge inventions, develop a still-more efficient factory – and steal market share from his now-outdated rivals.  A way had been found to use money to transform initiative & innovation into wealth. Out with the old methods, in with the new methods – and behind it always the investor – driving the process while amassing a fortune. This method of amassing wealth was eventually given the name capitalism.  A capitalist is someone who invests money in an enterprise with the objective of receiving more in return than was invested.”

A capitalist was originally one who invests money in the technology of the industrial revolution in order to make more than he invested (ie: make a profit). What this is essentially stating is that a person becomes a capitalist by first acquiring capital by savings, inheritance or borrowing and then by investing that capital into new ventures promising additional profits.

A capitalist is one who has or acquires surplus money to fund an enterprise. Once beginning the business he uses advanced technology (mass production, automation, etc.) and human labor to under price and outperform his competitors, gaining in increased market share and additional capital to invest in more ventures. The cheaper the human labor employed, the greater the opportunity for increased profit margins available to him.

So to recap in capitalism those who have an inherent economic advantage over someone else can use capital to increase their economic success through increasing the disparity between themselves and their competitors. Likewise they will gain an increasing economic disparity between themselves and anyone they employ.

The entire process of capitalism is fueled by and dependent on a process of increased disparity with a greater percentage of wealth going to fewer and fewer people. Capitalism is inherently a very competitive system with each transaction involving a relative winner and loser.

Seen from above you could track capitalism like a sports tournament whereby each participant who wins advances to the next round where the loser either goes home or plays in a consolation contest in the losers bracket. Even though a person who loses today may win tomorrow, over time a general trend emerges whereby every sector is dominated by one or two winners. Losers either become lesser pawns in another’s business or tries their luck in another emerging sector or new technology.

Yet, let’s be very clear here the advances in overall social wealth and standard of living are not caused by successful capitalist or their companies but rather by the inventions and technology they employ in their business. Many of the best inventors, innovators and influential minds have never been capitalists or even wealthy.

Though capitalism may be the mechanism by which many beneficial practices, medicines, inventions and technologies have been introduced into society they have rarely been the cause. Many past societies and eras saw great technological progress and improvements in the quality of life without capitalism. We recognize Egypt, Ancient China, the Greek and Roman Empires, the Ottoman Empire and the Italian Renaissance, (to name a few) for their positive technological and practical impact on the life of men.

Even Capitalism as a system has had its own share of times and events which have made the life of almost everyone more difficult and painful. The US often has a tendency to refer to itself as the beacon of capitalism and its positive effects on the standard of living of a majority of its citizens. Yet, the economic progress and improvement in the American standard of living has been anything but linear.

Almost the entire US history has been capitalistic and a product of the industrial revolution. Until recently the US economy has been dominated by the so called business cycle, where over a four year period the economy would have a boom followed by a bust. Now some would say that the majority of these recessions were minor blips on the road to progress, yet that would minimize the suffering many people endured. Yet, no one can deny the fact that economic depressions have long term consequences which can destroy lives for generations. The US had depressions in 1807, 1837, 1873, 1893 and 1929-1939.

I would like to backtrack a little and talk about the ways in which capitalism in the US in particular benefited from inventions and resources which may highly exaggerate capitalism’s ability to generate wealth and a higher standard of living for its citizens. A new virgin land held many benefits for a capitalistic system.
There was a seemingly endless supply of land which was viewed as instant capital. At that point in history land ownership was equated with wealth and position and owning land gave you opportunities others did not have. In the early US, only land owners could vote and therefore, only land owners were citizens and fully protected by the law.

Much of this land was rich in one way or another. A good portion of the land was far more fertile than Europe or the East. Farmers were able to acquire fertile cheap land and almost free labor (slaves). Much of the land was covered with rich forest land which could be used for fuel, construction and materials. The land was also rich in minerals which came in handy for the burgeoning technology of the industrial revolution. The varied and plentiful wildlife made fur trading and fishing important industries.

All in all from a resource point of view the US was a veritable Garden of Eden. Any industrialized economy would have flourished in these circumstances. Yet, despite all these riches the US still suffered through economic hard times and depressions. Not only that, but capitalism helped made sure that a relatively few people amassed the bulk of these natural riches and their benefits.

We all have heard stories about the Wild West, but one seldom reflects on the fact that almost every part of the US was a wild west at one time. Pioneers were always pushing further west, and each new thrust revealed a new wilderness to harness and exploit. Without much organization to towns their was little organized law or governance. The ambitious and ruthless had the inside track at becoming successful capitalist while the meek, weak, careful and kind were destined to a hard life where whatever they acquired or earned could be taken from them with little or no recourse. The term “robber barons” was not created in admiration for these early capitalists.

The ruthless could claim land that wasn’t theirs, harm or kill workers that objected to their terms and harm, kill or steal from competitors that didn’t have their stomach for immoral greed. The resources were there for all, but capitalism and a lack of regulations ended up giving mastery of it to but a few. One would be hard pressed to present a case that capitalism improved the standard of living for most pioneers during the first century of American life.

The true birth of the American middle class and the glorious rise in the standard of living for the masses began in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Inventions in farm machinery and agriculture did make farm labor more tolerable, yet at the same time put many people out of work. This forced many to the slums of the cities to find work in the emerging factories of mass produced goods. Yet, even these people experienced some of the benefits of electricity and coal in protecting them from harm and the harshest elements.

As the industrial revolution progressed capitalists began to need a consumer class to purchase all the goods and products being mass produced. Business leaders such as Henry Ford realized he had to pay his workers enough so they could afford to purchase the cars he was manufacturing. Quickly American capitalist learned that they could make two pennies for every penny they paid their worker, and make even more when their workers showed corporate loyalty by buying the products of the company they worked for.

Yet, the dramatic growth in the middle class came during and following the war years. The US was the major lender during the war years and reaped the benefits of this investment after the war. While other nations borrowed, lost civilian and military lives, and endured severe destruction to their homes and land, the US sat relatively isolated from the skirmishes and gained far more than it lost.

The US emerged from the war as the last man standing, and in relatively good financial position. The next few years saw the US take over the baton of empire from its European brothers. Russia, though suffering more damage and casualties than any other nation during the wars, became the US’s foil during its empire building years, due mainly to the fact that it offered communism as a challenge to capitalism.

The American middle class soon mushroomed out of capitalism’s growing need for a consumer class. The factories for war planes and munitions soon gave way to factories for washing machines, refrigerators and a host of conveniences whose profits stuffed the wallets of America’s new capitalist heroes.

As the US emerged as the empire it gained access to, if not control of, almost all of the world’s resources treating every nation’s assets as its own. The US populace which initially was opposed to involvement in both world wars was not excited about getting into the additional conflicts needed by an empire wanting to maintain and expand its influence.

One has to wonder how much of the rise in the standard of living of the American middle class was used as an incentive and bribe to gain their allegiance and support for the US’s empire building military actions. The USSR whether by design or good fortune was the perfect dupe to help galvanize the support for both capitalism and US empire aspirations.

Yet, even before the fall of the USSR the needs of capitalism began to outgrow the spoils of empire. Even with the entire globe’s resources and wealth at our disposal capitalism began to sputter threatening both the existence of the American middle class along with the continued fiscal expansion of our wealthiest capitalists.

Despite all the world’s resources and an endless stream of new technologies capitalism needed more fuel to sustain its momentum. So, in the 1980’s the US economy need for borrowing money to insure enough capital for further expansion increased. Over the last three decades the need for capitalists and governments to borrow and print money in order to keep the entire capitalistic system afloat has skyrocketed. Now, it takes something like $10 of borrowed cash to generate one dollar of profit. Obviously, not a good ratio.

Not only have the disparities inherent in the very mechanics of capitalism reached ridiculous levels where owners make thousands more per hour than workers, but the standard of living of the American middle class is tumbling. Yet, the multinational corporations are no longer dependent of a wealthy American middle class to sell their wares to, now they have 6 billion potential customers instead of 350 million.

In fact a sharp decline in the wages and standard of living of the American and European middle class will only help quicken the dream of a global economy. In the global economy which George Bush 1 more aptly called it “the new world order” you will have the ultimate capitalistic system whereby a few own almost everything and all workers earn about the same.

The majority of American’s will most likely tolerate and even support this logical unfolding of capitalism as long as they continue to falsely credit capitalism with our previous improvement in the quality of life and standard of living. The future of automation, artificial intelligence and nanotechnology considerably call into question the need for most workers, and if everything is owned and hoarded by a few trillionaires than what need will we then have for consumers.

I contend that increased disparity is inherent in modern capitalism, and the logical conclusion of increased disparity is a world of a few power lords and a planet full of subsistence living serfs. I’m not predicting this, I’m only pointing out that this is the logical outcome if we were to play out the path we are currently on.

Jim Guido

Economics and Stock Market27 Nov 2010 05:13 pm

Though the stock market has rebounded and the recession officially ended well over a year ago most people agree that the US economy is not in good shape. The remnants of the financial crisis and the “great recession” still linger as does a healthy amount of skepticism that things have actually improved.

Pretty much everyone is in agreement that the US is drowning in a sea of debt. Between consumer debt, government debt and residential and commercial mortgage debt it is pretty obvious that the entire economy is in peril of becoming bankrupt and unable to make their payments.

Likewise most people also agree that the job market is poor and too many people are unemployed or underemployed. Many point to the loss of manufacturing jobs to emerging nations as a root cause of the lack of jobs in the US.

The solutions to these problems fall into two camps. One camp focuses on the debt problem and feels that the consumer needs to act in fiscally responsible manner and pay off their credit card and mortgage debt. A majority of these people also feel that the government needs to curtail its debt and balance its budget. Often these same people claim that government is too big and too powerful and that its interventions only interfere with the free market system healing itself.

The other camp focuses on the poor job market and believes the US economy is in need of stimulus to get its economy functioning again. This crowd generally favors giving tax breaks to small and large businesses so that they have the funds to expand businesses, hire employees and successfully compete in the global economy. Many of this crowd also feels bail outs and stimulus packages may be necessary to stave off crises and create a business friendly environment enticing businesses to stay in the US and employ its own citizens. Leaders of this camp state that the only through printing more money can we have enough to pay off our debts while helping fund businesses to expand and hire new workers.

I myself have always been a frugal person who has viewed debt and the borrowing of money as reckless and not very smart. Yet, this does not prevent me from seeing the flaws in the paying down the debt solution offered by that anti-debt camp. Since wages in the US have not and show no signs of skyrocketing the only way for most consumers to reduce their debt is through saving their money and consuming less.

Economic experts are fond of saying that the consumer (through consumption) is responsible for 70% of the economy. Now, even if that percentage is a little high the fact remains our economy will have a hard time surviving if the consumer stops buying goods and services. By definition a consumer who is saving and paying off debt is one who is cutting back on the purchasing of goods and services. A contraction of money spent by the consumer will cause a contraction in the economy, which is by definition a recession.

Now some would say we need a lengthier recession in order to wring out the excesses if our economy (debt). These same people would state that this is the role of recession in the standard business cycle and that we just need to accept this fact. Yet, the problem with that logic is that our debt load is historically high and could take years if not decades to “wring out” of the system. In the meantime many people would lose their jobs, houses, go bankrupt, and suffer if not starve.

Also during this time of fiscal responsibility it would be hard for any new jobs to be created in a consumer service based economy. In an environment where the majority of Americans are cutting back on purchases, saving money and paying off debt who would want to open up a new or expand an existing business. In such an environment businesses close and lay off workers and anyone foolish enough to make what people aren’t buying will not stay in business long.

Likewise if the government were balancing its budget and paying down its mountain of debt the economy would continue to contract. A fiscally conservative government would not be able to stimulate the economy through giving money to businesses or consumers to encourage them to spend and create jobs.

The truth be told this has only been the case which our extreme debt crisis is only emphasizing. A fiscally responsible society in which its citizens saved their money and only bought what they needed would never be affluent or have enough jobs for its citizens. The majority of jobs that we have would never have existed if people only bought what they truly needed, or even lived inside their means. This is especially true of a modern society where automation and mass production reduce the number of employees needed to produce goods and services for people to consume.

The libertarian contention that a true free market capitalistic system based on supply and demand would cure all our ills including the lows of the business cycle are not rooted in the real world. Not only does it ignore human nature, the imbalances inherent in amassing capital and the complications caused by urban and global markets, but it just doesn’t take into consideration automation and the simple fact that we cannot provide 6 billion people with truly gainful employment.

Taking a look at the camp which advocates the printing of money and all other forms of stimulating the economy through fiscal stimuli, we find a host of new limitations to their solutions. First of all much of the bailouts are a continuation of the trickle down theory of economics which has greatly assisted in the creation of imbalances inherent in our debt laden society.

Since the 80’s the relative wealth of the majority of Americans has declined while an increasingly shrinking percentage of Americans are hoarding a larger and larger percentage of total wealth. An escalation or even a continuation of the rate of printing more money is likely to only enhance the gulf between the have’s and have nots.

The stated goal of expanding the money supply (printing money) is to stimulate the economy by making funds available for consumers and businesses to pay down their debt while providing businesses with the necessary funds to expand their operations and thereby hire employees.

Yet, many of the dynamics and repercussions of monetary expansion and bailouts only inflame the debt problem and make the monetary gulf amongst American’s more exaggerated. Let’s take a look at a few of the most obvious flaws and historical limitations of monetary expansion.

First it should be pointed out that we have been expanding the monetary supply for decades which has had the net result of depreciating the dollar and inflating the national debt through many different vehicles including the trade deficit.

When you add money to the overall pool of money in existence you are immediately making each dollar worth less. As the money supply grows each individual dollar losses some purchasing power. Imagine playing monopoly and you had $500 dollars and the bank totaled 10,000. In that case you would have one 20th or 5% of all the money available. In a game involving four of five people you’d be doing okay. Yet, if someone were to increase the banks total to 1,000,000 dollars your $500 would be far less impressive and you would now own about one two thousandth of the amount and no where near even one hundredth of one percent of the money available.

This is essentially what happens to our purchasing power as the money supply increases. The only people who immediately benefit from monetary expansion are those able to borrow money and those that lend the money. When the federal reserve prints money they and the banking system make money through the interest acquired by loaning the money out. Since the Fed is a private banking cartel which has a contract with our government we the taxpayers pay the interest that the government owes for the money being printed.

Currently we have interest rates at historically low levels whereby the money being printed is not very costly to a borrower. This allows wealthy people an opportunity to borrow a good portion of the money with little overhead. While this does present the opportunity for the wealthy to use this money for business expansion and job creation the reality is that the money is more often than not used for other purposes.

The money invested in business expansion could be used to build factories abroad where labor is cheaper and thereby not helping the US’s unemployment problem. Second, the money borrowed at low rates can be used to buy longer term US bonds or foreign bonds with higher yields. The borrower can then use a portion of the money borrowed to pay off the interest and use the higher yield of the bonds they purchased to generate a sizable profit.

The profit garnered through the higher yield bonds can be reported as earning by a corporation giving off the impression their business is improving and thereby entice investors to buy their stock which further increases their profits in a self perpetuating cycle of profit allowing corporate profits to surge despite low growth or even a decrease in earnings generated in their actual business.

Money printed by the Federal Reserve is money, we through our government, have to pay interest on. All printed dollars added to the money supply weaken the purchasing power of already existing money (by diluting the money supply) while increasing the amount of government, and hence, tax payer debt.

The goal of printing dollars is to stimulate economic growth. In an ideal situation you would gain more than a dollars worth of growth for every dollar printed. Yet, statistics have shown that this is not so. About two decades ago we created about a dollars worth of growth for every three dollars printed (borrowed). The relationship has deteriorated ever since and the last statistics I saw had us needing to print about $10 for every dollar of economic growth.

What the above paragraph says is that while printing money does in fact stimulate economic growth it causes a much more significant growth in debt. In other words for every dollar we print we are incurring more than a dollar’s worth of debt plus the interest owed to repay the Federal Reserve for their efforts.

The more money you print the less purchasing power the dollar has, which is what we mean when we say that the dollar is being devalued. What this means is the more dollars in circulation the more dollars you need to pay for the same item purchased before the money supply increased. This commonly referred to as inflation.

So while printing dollars may stimulate the economy it also causes inflation. Inflation causes a rise in the cost of living. So, unless workers wages are climbing faster than the rate of inflation, a rise in the money supply makes it harder for people to purchase things. Inflation making things more expensive has a tendency to slow down economic growth. So, in most situations one lowers interest rates to stimulate the economy. Yet, since our interest rates are already at historic lows (between 0 and .25%) we are unable to lower rates to stimulate our economy.

In essence we are currently trying to borrow our way out of debt. Yet, printing money causes more debt and makes it harder for people to pay off their debt. If things cost more people will have to spend more on basics such as food and shelter and use the rest to keep up with or hopefully pay down some of their debt. Inflation means more and more consumers will cut down on purchases and the number of people going bankrupt and having their homes go into foreclosure will increase. Businesses, likewise, will have a hard time paying off their debts and staying in business. Many of those not closing their doors will be forced to lay off workers in order to survive.

As the title of this post suggests we are in an economic Catch 22, where both cutting back on consumption and printing money (increasing debt) will cause more job unemployment and further contraction of the economy (recession or depression). At this point in time it seems that our policy makers are content to try and keep things afloat for as long as possible.

The best analogy I can think of is that we are in a skyscraper that is on fire. Without a means of putting the fire out we are deciding to try and out run the fire. Instead of jumping out the third story window, we are running up the stairs to higher floors as the fire chases up after us. Having no water we stack all the furniture we have to block the path of the fire allowing us to race up to higher floors hoping the fire burns itself out. Yet, the barriers we place in front of the fire (furniture = debt and inflation) is a known fuel for fires making it likely the fire will only quicken and strengthen. The higher we climb the less of a chance we have for a safe and successful leap from the inferno.

In sum having people focus on reducing consumption and reducing their debt will likely result in slowing down the economy even further resulting in increased unemployment, foreclosures and bankruptcy. While increasing the amount of debt through printing money and corporate bail outs will only increase the mountain of debt choking consumers and businesses. In such an environment business contraction and not expansion is likely and larger corporations can make money off money borrowed and if they do expand businesses it will be in countries or communities with cheap labor.

This post has gotten far too long, so in my next post I will explain why I think this Catch 22 exists and what should be done about it.

Jim Guido

Philosophy19 Nov 2010 12:37 pm

There is little in life more illuminating and mysterious than words and language. I could and will spend many days exploring and describing the wonder and reality of words. In the last post I discussed some of the beauty of our ability to think of the possible and the world of desire born out of our sex drive. In this post I want to talk of the beauty and possibility or words and some of the ways this power is being abused in our modern world.

We use words with such ease that we have a hard time imagining human experience without words. At times it is difficult for us to imagine human thought without words, even though we do have wordless emotional reactions, as well as artistic and musical experiences which contain much meaning without verbal assistance.

Yet, at each moment words stand ready to articulate our experience and paint our world. It is common for us to place words in different categories. Words sometimes function as names for objects (nouns), actions (verbs), descriptions (adjectives), and our reactions to events (feelings and emotions). Words are able to represent both time and place (real or fictional).

Let me explain some of the reasons that I view words as colors with which I paint my world. It is a little deceptive when we say that many words simply name things and objects. As an example let’s take the word sofa. Most people when asked to imagine a sofa can conjure up a rather specific mental image. Yet, it is probable that in a roomful of ten people that there would be a sizable divergence of the image imagined.

In other words my ideal couch is likely somewhat to very different than yours. Of course, much of the variety might have to do with qualities rather than the essential nature of the couch. Differences in color, texture or materials would not truly contest the very definition of a sofa. Yet, once we get into differences of size, shape, contours and the like we begin to blur the edges of what a sofa really is.

In essence a sofa is not so much a specific thing as a group of objects of varying qualities that is defined by related words. A sofa is a sofa until it becomes a bed, recliner, chair, love seat, etc.

This is also true in the world of action and emotion. One is walking until it switches over to trotting, running, hopping, dancing, leaping or swaying. One is angry until one is able to be labeled as frustrated, enraged, agitated or testy.

Words are far less rigid than we usually regard them. The irony is that the larger and more abstract your vocabulary the more richly and accurately you can describe the world and your experience of it.
At first, perhaps, we saw an orange and recognized it by its color. We therefore called the fruit an orange, and helped others identify it by its color. In this case the specific object was an orange recognizable to us because of its distinctive color. Yet, the moment we separated the color orange into an abstract concept separate from the concrete object of the fruit called an orange we opened up an entire world of articulation and possibility previously closed to us.

Once orange became a quality (color) and not just a piece of fruit we were able to see orange in many other things. Orange could then be a highlight or a quality we see in a host of other things. Our perceptions, descriptions, and experiences of so many other things in the world became richer and more defined by our recognition of orange-ness.

This is not to say that we didn’t see the color orange in other things before we came across the fruit, but only to say that perception and language have a synergetic relationship in which progress in one arena allows increased clarity and definition in the other.

One can see an elm tree without it being named separately from the general group of trees. Yet, once we have identified what distinguishes an elm from an oak it makes it far easier for us to enrich our experience of both oaks and elms. So, often see without really recognizing the specific attributes of that experience. Words have such a vital role in what and how we experience.

I’m a big proponent of giving care to how we frame an event or experience. The words we choose to describe an event to ourselves as well as others can drastically affect our experiences and our view of life. There are limits to the freedom we have to frame things and this skill can be used as a form of denial, but if used wisely it can help us become a happier, wiser and more satisfied person.

Describing a mountain view as majestic is far different than experiencing it as foreboding. Approaching a challenging task as an opportunity is far different than as a critical moment. I personally get excited rather than anxious when I have an opportunity to score the last basket in a game. Many on the other hand are paralyzed by the possibility of failure because of how they frame the situation to themselves. This is not to say that a person who looks at a challenge as an opportunity will always succeed, but only that the attitude of opportunity makes success more likely.

There is great power in the words we choose to articulate our experience. Even synonyms often harbor slight changes in meaning that can have a dramatic impact on the overall experience of a description.

Let’s go back to an image I used earlier and see words as carving out their own space. A sofa as I said is defined by the words that border it. It is a sofa until it becomes a love seat, longer or bench. Even though they are synonyms many would have a slightly different experience of a couch than a sofa.

The space of a sofa is defined by the words that border it. The more words related to sofa we have the more defined and specific the word sofa becomes. The other related words make its space smaller and more defined kind of like the increased number of pixels on a TV screen create the possibility of higher clarity and definition.

The larger your vocabulary and the reservoir of words available to you and the more clear and defined can be your experience and articulation. The more words at your disposal the more subtlety, nuance, and clarity available to you.

Each word is slightly different from every other word you know. Each new word is a new shade of color to paint your world and individualize your experience. Every word offers increased opportunity for clarity and definition, an opportunity for improved self-expression and for appreciation of your uniqueness.

One can still paint their world effectively with a smaller vocabulary just as one can be a great artist using a handful of colors or in the skilled use of a limited amount of variations in shades in pencil drawings. Yet, one cannot deny the possibilities inherent in a world of color as opposed to one in black and white.

Me, I enjoy words. I am fascinated by the endless expression and increased sense of intimacy words offer. I revel in the sense of personal growth and development I feel when I paint my world. I am overjoyed when I find a new phrase or description which resonates in you and seems to articulate a shared vision or experience.

The order of words like the order of notes totally changes the nature of the song being played. Words become sentences, sentences become paragraphs and paragraphs become stories. Each day is a new song, a new story and a new painting. Actually every day is a swarm of new songs, stories and paintings.

I feel so privileged to be able to share my words with you.

Jim Guido

PS Speaking of words and music, their has been a constant growth in the number of people visiting this site. Over the last three months traffic to this site has once again doubled from the previous three months. Also in this time period there has been an even larger growth spurt in the number of people listening to my songs and reading parts of my books. I would love to hear from more of you on how my art strikes you. Thanks.

Philosophy and sexuality10 Nov 2010 10:20 pm

It is interesting to note that when we talk about qualities of being human we often choose to frame these skills in a not so flattering manner. When we hail human beings for being at the top of the food chain we often point out that man’s ability to lie and deceive as one of the most distinguishing factors. A skill that allows him to rise to the top of the animal kingdom.

Man is not the only animal that can deceive or give false information as many animals protect themselves and survive through some manner of artifice. Some may play dead, others use camouflage while others will puff themselves up or pretend to be an harmless object in their environment. Yet, man uses deception in a wide array of circumstances and situations which often have nothing to do with survival. Man often lies for convenience, laziness, or even humor.

Yet the ability to lie and deceive is really a small subset of a more important and astounding ability and that is the ability to live in the possible and not be imprisoned in the actual. Living in the possible allows man to anticipate, plan, and project a future as well as a past.

This ability of playing with the possible allows him to invent, create, dream, empathize, sympathize, problem solve and love. This same ability is at the core of his appreciation of art, music, and his quest for truth.

Despite all these wonderful ramifications of man’s ability to seek and create the possible we still have a tendency to focus on the lying and deceptive aspects of the possible and are remiss to discuss the more positive aspects.

Another example of how we under value and in some ways demean a remarkable human trait is in our handling of the male sex drive. Being male, I’m focusing on the male sex drive though much of what I’m about to say could probably apply to the female sex drive.

The male sex drive is often thought of as being something of an evolutionary hurdle to overcome or a limitation. The sex drive which was necessary from an evolutionary stand point is now thought of being out of touch with our current life world. Men are often accused of being too obsessed with sex and that the male sex drive reduces females to dehumanized sex objects. Males with a strong sex drive are often referred to as Neanderthals which again implies that modern males need to overcome their innate sex drive to evolve and become a part of the modern world.

In modern psychology the best they could do to acknowledge the positive aspects of the male sex drive is in the concept of sublimation. Yet, this positive use of the male sex drive is pretty limited. The following definition of sublimation will suffice to make this point.
[ trans. ] (esp. in psychoanalytic theory) divert or modify (an instinctual impulse) into a culturally higher or socially more acceptable activity : people who will sublimate sexuality into activities which help to build up and preserve civilization | he sublimates his hurt and anger into humor.

This definition implies that the male sex drive is a generally inferior instinctual impulse in need of being modified in order to become socially acceptable or beneficial. Yet, I would contend that just as lying and deceiving is a subset of the possible that the male sex drive is a subset of desire.

My sense of desire is fueled by and highly influenced by my sex drive. Desire is not a sublimation of my desire but rather my desire is an expression of my sex drive. The male sex drive has been a pervasive force in my life since early adolescence. Now, in my mid-fifties this force is lessening, but my sense of desire owes its existence and form to my sex drive.

It was my sex drive which propelled me towards intimacy. The intensity of desire that became the goal and joy of so much of my experience was born and maintained by the sex drive. I wanted to know, to savor and enjoy every pore of my lover. I wanted to know her every thought and wanted to please her in every sense that she pleased me. This desire, intensity and intimacy of the loved one became my template for all forms of desire and activity. My love of ideas, language, music and people in general is formed from that pervasive desire inherent in the male sex drive.

My love of life is an expression not a sublimation of the sex drive. The sex drive was not something to alter, redirect or channel. My sex drive was an atmosphere which imbued all of life with a sense of excitement. My sex drive was the catalyst propelling me towards being engaged and enraptured with life.

The longer I live the more awed I am by the very process of life itself and of human experience in particular. In this post I focused on two aspects of being human, the faculty of fiction or the possible and the male sex drive. Our experience of life, meaning and satisfaction are deeply steeped in both of these faculties.

In my next post I plan on talking about another amazing feature of human existence and that is the realm of words and language. Any discussion on words and language could go on forever, so I’ll try to center the discussion on my love of painting my world with words.

I”ll end with the lyrics of a song I wrote well over two decades ago which deals with some of the ideas expressed in this post. It is called Fictional Space and is to be found on my I Rock Therefore I am CD in the music section of this site.

Fictional Space

There’s something of the mind which plays off circumstance
Like a servant pampered king it can be wise of frivolous
Unencumbered one used for strategy of evasion
Place me straddled on this life

Vision gives me power and might
Bash their monstrous heads, the survivors scheme
Lovers engulfed orgasmic anticipation
The hunter laughs at the snap of the trap

Fictional space

There’s something that’s the style which I won’t represent
It’s a feeling of denial wan discouragement
Harlots of the soul lost in merriment
Visceral drives buried by excitement

Moments take pride in invention
Problems provoke awkward hesitation
Solution, look to friendly vistas
The future beckons the agile dancer

Fictional space

Make me alive set me on fire
Make me alive celluloid fire

Jim Guido

Economics and Government01 Nov 2010 08:02 pm

I can’t remember a time in which business and government weren’t thought of as being radically different and usually opposed to one another. Businesses labeled the government as intrusive and inefficient. The standard line was that government jobs and decisions wouldn’t survive in the real and competitive world of business.

If the government were a business, it was often said, the government would be out of business in no time. Government jobs were often characterized as “cushy” and had little need for productivity or efficiency.

The government was also viewed as a populist police force in which business success and progress was impeded by government’s policies and tax practices. Without government intervention the belief was “the sky was the limit” for the success and wealth of corporate America.

I’ll have to admit I never saw it that way, and as time has passed I think it is becoming increasingly apparent that there is little difference between government and business. In fact, in many ways the US government appears to be little more than a very large and powerful business enterprise.

Those acknowledging the more business friendly attitude of government throughout the years usually start by pointing out the increasing power and influence of special interest groups. Numerous trade policies, the destruction of the labor unions, and business friendly policies and tax laws are directly attributable to the monetary and legal influence of the business world acquired through the omnipresence of lobbyists in Washington.

The increased presence of the media through radio, newspapers, TV and the internet has made the success of political campaigns more dependent on highly expensive ad campaigns. The more elections are dependent on larger and larger funds the more crucial the role of campaign donations. Since wealth and business go hand in hand, it is easy to see how the role and importance of corporate America has become in national elections and even at times in local elections.

In a democracy the existence and survival of politicians is dependent on their being elected and the more elections are dominated by donations and monetary issues the more politicians are dependent on the support of business (corporate America). This reality has made it difficult for those opposed to the priorities and political platforms of the wealthiest of American’s to get sufficiently funding for their campaigns or get and stay elected.

Though these realities are difficult to ignore many still believe that mavericks and populist candidates can and do exist and get elected. Without media coverage no candidate can win a national campaign. Those few families who own the major media outlets are amongst the wealthiest people in the nation. Believing that these people do not protect their interests and influence the coverage produced by their employees is quite wishful thinking.

In most cases it takes money to attract money. Our entire political system is becoming increasingly dominated by wealthy people both as supporters and as candidates. This is not to say that the wealthiest candidate will win an election but more accurately that one will not become a national candidate without being wealthy or a friend of wealth. The majority of national candidates entered politics with a good deal of money while some were not themselves wealthy but found ways to get the support and backing of wealthy donors.

In other words as time marches on the national political scene in the US is being dominated by wealthy US businessmen and lawyers. Those running our country, Congress and the state legislatures and their governors are wealthy American businessmen.

When one has spent their entire professional careers being a successful businessman do you think they change their methods, practices and priorities once they become elected? Yesterdays corporate heads are today’s national political leaders and cabinet members. Those who govern today were yesterdays business leaders, and those few national leaders who weren’t business leaders before getting into office become wealthy business leaders when they leave office. If that doesn’t show you their loyalties and priorities than nothing will.

Our government is a business, a very large and powerful business. The old saw that business is efficient and government is inefficient should after all the recent bailouts be proven to be false. American businesses have not been efficient or successful for decades. Corporate America has been the recipient and beneficiaries of empire. For every story or invention and business integrity you can find you can find dozens of exploitation, piracy, intimidation, recklessness and the like as the source of success. We were a nation blessed with great and ample natural resources and a military will and ambition to use the resources and talents of the entire globe.

Our government is in debt, but so is corporate America. Taxpayers have been the only thing that has kept our government from defaulting and going bankrupt and the same could be said for corporate America.

Our government is a business it makes money directly and indirectly through its intricate and mutually beneficial relationships with corporate America. Most people now admit that our government has entered wars for purely economic reasons and not for political ideals such as freedom and human rights.

Our government is highly dependent on our military to maintain our role and position as the reigning superpower. One could make quite a strong argument that our military and the business of war are vital to our economic survival. Not only is war important in protecting our economic interests such as oil in the middle east, but our economy would probably fall apart if we decreased our domestic and international dominance in sales of arms and military hardware.

It is interesting to note that the largest media outlets in the US all have high stakes in the arms and munitions industry.

More and more people are becoming aware of the fact that the Federal Reserve is not a federal agency but a private banking cartel. This corporation through its contract with the US government is able to print money and highly alter the value of the dollar. In some direct and more often indirect means this private corporation is able to use and abuse tax payer money.

Yet, the government under the guise of representing the people is doing the same thing. They are a business and all of the major players are businessmen who are protecting the monetary interests of themselves and their friends through the use of tax payer money. The same people who promised workers retirement funds and reneged on those promises are now making decisions on social security and other tax monies they took out of our paychecks.

Tomorrow many Americans will go to the polls and exercise their right to vote. I myself am a voter in search of a candidate. I have no desire to support or enable a corrupt system which does not represent my interests or values. I have no interest in maintaining “business” as usual.

Our government and our society in general is far too dependent on the world of money. This makes us dependent on all the ways money is generated in the world. Money is power and security, it is the only currency we officially recognize. A society dependent on money is dependent on making sure that it is involved in the largest and most lucrative industries all over the planet.

Our government being a business must tolerate and exploit all the arenas of wealth. As long as many of the best prospects of monetary growth are provided by unseemly activities and industries we must condone and partake in those activities.

We must war and promote conflict to support our arms economy, and even torture and use shameless propaganda. We must hide and understate dangers such as the gulf spill and the air quality of New York City following 9/11 to keep commerce flowing. We must lie to people regarding our true interests in foreign lands that harbor valuable products such as oil, heroin and cocaine, while at the same time exaggerate the potential harms of nations not playing by our economic rules and conditions (Iran, Iraq, Cuba, Panama, etc.).

I guess many of you will not agree with the last paragraph and view it as cynical or exaggerated. Maybe I am wrong or am over stating the dark side of economics. Yet, it does seem logical to me that the wealthiest nation on the planet can only maintain that position by leading in the marketplace. A nation whose values and business practices were above or opposed to the functioning of the real economy would soon lose its position.

Let me just give you a few quick examples of our media’s complicity in seemingly protecting the interests of the wealthy, special interests groups, and donors. It is common knowledge that some of our nations largest campaign contributors are wealthy people from foreign nations who return favors with campaign contributions. One only has to think of the concerns that were expressed when it was revealed that many of Bill Clinton’s largest campaign contributions were coming from Chinese and Asian businessman.

Our media presents the situation in Israel in quite a different way than most of the world press. While most nations are horrified at the way the Palestinians are being treated, are press stands alone in viewing the actions of the Israelis with sympathy and support. The Palestinians are a captive people cut off from the world. Over a 100 Palestinians are killed for every Israeli and many of the Israelis are killed by friendly fire. They have no air force or organized army and have little access to arms. Israel is major player in world arms sales and has sophisticated technology such as drone planes and robotic gun fire run by soldiers in underground bunkers.

President Carter recently said that the Palestinians live “in a cage”. Reports of kids being killed by soldiers and robot fire for just moving “too close” to restricted areas is fairly common. Though being one of, if not, the most impoverished people on the planet the Israelis are currently burning their olive trees during their harvest season which is their most important crop as well as having social and religious importance.

While most of the world describes the situation as a genocide being conducted on the Palestinians our press and president still talks of Israel’s right to protect themselves and label the Palestinians as terrorists not victims. And, of course, since Palestine is not recognized as a nation and has no official or recognized army than any military action can be technically defined as terrorism.

It would appear to me that Israel’s sizable economic relationship with us coupled with its sizable and influential lobby makes them hard to criticize. In our own nation there are many wealthy political donors who are sympathetic to the nation of Israel and would not back any candidate who was critical of any actions of the Israeli government. All in all there is a lot to be gained by a politicians and the media going soft on Israel and a lot to lose by presenting some of the views accepted as fact in most of the world including our allies in Europe.

I began the last paragraph by starting out saying that it appears to me, and then went on to explain my perceptions and my reasons for my perceptions. The point is that when our priority is wealth and money truth is at least secondary and possible an obstacle. A salesman will often emphasize the strengths of his product while minimize or distract someone from recognizing the weaknesses of the product. In some cases salesman may even go so far as to totally misrepresent a product to get a sale.

When money is primary truth is at least secondary, which means when we are being treated as a consumer we can be fairly assured that we are not getting an accurate picture of the situation. Long ago we stopped being referred to and treated as citizens and have since been handled as consumers. As voters we are consumers of politics and politicians have become products we believe in and vote for.

We are a proud society. We are proud of being capitalist and proud of being a democracy. Improvements in our quality of life and our standard of living have been largely acquired through our economic system. Yet, now money is no longer a tool or a vehicle, but has become synonymous with the system itself.

And now for something completely different!

Here are a few miscellaneous thoughts and a couple of jokes I made up.

What do you call a Rastafarian percussionist?
The dreaded drummer

When gladiolas wilt do they become sadiolas?

A man is divorcing his wife for emotional abandonment. In court the man tells the judge that his wife spends all her time doing crafts such as sewing, quilting and embroidering. He states that she never cleans the house and when he comes home from work she never has dinner ready.

His final statement before the judge is that his wife seldom comes to bed and if fact the previous night he got no sleep due to the noise of the sewing machine whirring away as she worked on a quilt well into the morning hours.
After hearing this the judge turned to the wife and asked “how do you plead”?

The wife smiled and responded, “Quilting as charged your honor.”

____________________________________________________________________

Let’s look at the difference between the words here and (t)here. As you can see the only difference is the initial (T).

In physics (T) stands for time in many equations. And in the real world the difference between here and there is essentially time. Here is now and in the present. To get there takes time, even if it is just to look over there. Hence, here is now and there is not now.

Now lets take a look at the difference between here and where.

Here and (W)here.

Again the difference is one letter in this case the initial W of where.

It is interesting to note that the letter W is the first letter of most question words. Who, What, Where, When, Why and Which are all examples. How does not begin with a w but ends with one. It is hard to think of a question word that does not begin with the letter W.
A question is an uncertainty, and the difference between here and there involves going
from a known place called here to an unknown or uncertain place referred to as where.

So this observation is neither here nor there, but I’m here and you’re where?

Jim Guido

Economics and Government26 Oct 2010 02:16 pm

I read the following two articles this morning and felt they help highlight two of my recent themes on this site, one that US journalism is dead and two that the emergent global economy will be dominated by a handful of people while everyone else is heading towards serfdom.
The articles will be in parenthesis, and my comments will not.

( Auto giant Ford Motor Company today said it has reported a 69 per cent jump in third quarter net income to USD 1.68 billion driven growth in North American operations.)

Many Americans will be angered by the fact that a bailed out company would be making such obscene profits. Yet, my focus would be in an investigation of how the profits were made.

(Ford attributed its robust quarter numbers to better products, momentum in North America and continued success at Ford Credit amid still-challenging business conditions.)

This explanation of profits is skillfully worded and misleading and, of course, is allowed to stand without any questions by the media reporting (or just printing) the story. First of all better products don’t make profits. So, the question is who is buying all these vehicles. There is no mention of the USA in particular which probably means sales were not strong here, but maybe had some improvement in Mexico and Canada (North America).

The real key here is the mention of the “continued success at Ford Credit amid still challenging business conditions”. What this most likely means is that the bulk of Ford’s profits are on financing of previous sold vehicles and not on current sales.

(”This was another strong quarter and we continue to gain momentum with our One Ford plan. Delivering world class products and aggressively restructuring our business has enabled us to profitably grow even at low industry volumes in key regions,” said Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally.)

(In terms of geographical locations, Ford has posted a impressive numbers in all the regions-North America, Europe and Asia Pacific Africa accept South America.)
Alan’s indirect message is that Ford is making more money selling abroad than in the US. And like most industries is making more profit through an increase of volume through an increase of customer base (global market). This means that while sales numbers are reducing in the US they are expanding in countries such as China, and coupled with the low cost of labor abroad is allowing Ford to make substantial profits even though vehicles prices are not increasing.

(Ford said it has,” posted a 28 per cent sales increase in Asia Pacific Africa, including a 14 per cent increase in China led by Fiesta demand and a 190 per cent increase in India led by sales of the new Ford Figo.” During the quarter, the company had announced plan to launch eight new vehicles in India by mid-decade and export Ford Figo from India to 50 markets.)

Yep, sales in emerging countries are what’s powering their profits along with the financing of vehicles.

(Ford said it will continue to post good numbers with increases in both cash flow and profitability in 2011.)

Sounds like a winning formula to me, get bailout money locally to help finance expansion abroad. Sit on hordes of cash, borrow money at almost 0% and then invest it in stocks and higher interest bonds and claim money made in this fashion as business profits. So, even though sales numbers are hurting you can still claim money made through investments as profits and make even more money as investors buy your stock because of your profit claims in quarterly reports. Add on to this the financing of vehicles already sold and:
Keep this up and you can become even wealthier without selling or even making cars and trucks. In the meantime until emerging markets go into a major economic downturn you can make even more additional profits through cheap labor selling cars to previously carless consumers.
Okay, now time for article number two.

(One out of every 34 Americans who earned wages in 2008 earned absolutely nothing — not one cent — in 2009.

The stunning figure was released earlier this month by the Social Security Administration, but apparently went unreported until it appeared today on Tax.com in a column by Pulitzer Prize-winning tax reporter David Cay Johnston.)

Jesus, three percent of the working populace didn’t make a penny and no major publication bothered to even print the information. My claim of US journalism being dead seems less like an exaggeration now huh.

(It’s not just every 34th earner whose financial situation has been upended by the financial crisis. Average wages, median wages, and total wages have all declined — except at the very top, where they leaped dramatically, increasing five-fold.)

As I have mentioned many times on this site it appears as if we are heading towards a global deflationary spiral which will assist in getting the American and European middle class more in line with the wages of the rest of the planet. More and more wealth and ownership into fewer and fewer hands.
(Johnston writes that while the number of Americans earning more than $50 million fell from 131 in 2008 to 74 in 2009, those that remained at the top increased their income from an average of $91.2 million in 2008 to almost $519 million.)

The number of the wealthiest people whose wealth and standard of living increased was cut in half in a years time. These people aren’t poor by anyone’s standard, but the elite club of winners in the global economy is shrinking fast. While almost everyone’s wages and net wealth is in severe decline, the top seventy four people did rather well. There total wealth didn’t just increase 5% or 6%, or even 20% which would represent an incredibly lucky year in the stock market, but their wealth went up some 500% to 600%.

(The wealth is astounding, says Johnston. “That’s nearly $10 million in weekly pay!… These 74 people made as much as the 19 million lowest-paid people in America, who constitute one in every eight workers.”)

Let’s hear that again, seventy four people are making as much as 19,000,000 people. In other words 74 people are making more than 1/8 of the entire work force.
(In September, Senate Republicans along with a handful of Democrats, partnered to defeat the Creating American Jobs and Ending Offshoring Act, a bill that would have raised taxes on companies that send jobs abroad and benefited companies that bring jobs back to American soil.)

This is not about just getting rich. It’s about getting rid of the middle class and reducing all but a few to a life of servitude and subsistence living. Few will own and the rest will be owned. This sounds harsh, and I hope I’m wrong, but the data is the data.

When I try to make sense of many of the actions and trends of the last two or three decades no other explanation seems to fit the data. Trust me I keep looking for a more humane explanation, but none fits the data.

I am by nature an upbeat, energetic and positive person. I think we still have many opportunities to stop this madness, but you can’t change a problem until you identify it. The more accurately you identify and define the problem the better your solution can be.

So, here’s to having the courage and stomach to thoroughly explore and understand the problem.

Jim Guido

PS The first article I read on Google News, and the second article is from the Huffington Post.

Economics and Social Issues24 Oct 2010 12:07 am

I am uncomfortable enough being an American, but even more uncomfortable being a tourist. For many years we traveled little. Mostly we visited family. A number of years ago we did travel to Italy and Greece to visit our homelands and get a sense of our heritage (I’m Italian my wife is Greek). Other than that we’ve done the occasional week at the beach where we rent a beach house with friends.

Currently we are in Puerta Vallarta Mexico at a time share which my wife received as a gift from a friend of ours. We are staying at a resort hotel and I feel totally out of my element. The experience of Mexico has been pleasant and we have done some activities and ventures to acquaint ourselves with the local culture and its history.

My discomfort with being at a resort has only subsided when we venture from the hotel and surrounding resort community. I find being treated as a tourist almost nauseating. For any of you who are frequent visitors to this site you are aware that I am no friend of our consumer culture and capitalism in general.

I do not like people serving me and treating me like an invalid. I do not like tipping people for invading my personal space and doing things I’d rather do myself. I do not like vendors and local merchants badgering me and getting angry when I do not spend money at every instant.

I can’t bear watching people slave in the heat to provide me services and then smile and ingratiate themselves anytime I approach or share an elevator with them. Why shouldn’t these people have some time to relax and enjoy the sun? I guess I’d feel better if we took turns pampering each other than me always being the recipient of their care.

As part of the package we were expected to take part in a time share presentation by the company which owns the resort. The two first people who talked to us were friendly and humble. We liked them and almost wanted to buy a time share to help them out. Yet, the wheel and dealer who they called in to go in for the kill and do the true hard sell was a very self absorbed salesman. He tried every sales strategy and forced bonding technique I’ve ever been acquainted with.

He reminded me of a character out of Roger Rabbit as he verbally bounded and gesticulated in caffeine induced energy. His efforts to engage and persuade us went everywhere from cajoling, to siding with us and finally, to challenging us and finally to insulting us for not taking advantage of this great opportunity and deal he was offering. During this time he was living in the salesman moment and had no idea how many times he had contradicted himself as he discarded strategy after strategy trying to find our personal Holy Grail of inducement.

At the end of his high pressurized presentation I felt a combination of anger and sadness at the man. He appeared to be a very successful salesman, yet he also appeared to be a very unhappy individual.

Walking the streets near the resort one perpetually has to fend off the aggressive questions from vendors, merchants and taxi drivers, who all seem angry when you attempt to ignore their verbal assaults and questions as they follow you down the street. Any attempts to be human and courteous on our part by making eye contact and saying no thank you only increases the intensity and length of their inquisitions and inquiries.

I bear no grudge against most of these people for they are just trying to make a living and survive. Yet, I do dislike the way they make me feel as I hate being a person who ignores others. I am by no means a wealthy person, yet I realize how fortunate I am to not have to behave in such a manner to insure that my basic needs are taken care of.

Yet, any local I talk to in Puerta Vallarta who has not been trying to get me to buy something has been very kind and pleasant. My experience here this week has only further secreted my negative attitude towards money and furthered my belief that money brings out the worst in people.

The odd thing is that none of the people staying at the resort strike me as being wealthy. For the most part everyone seems to be from middle and working class situations who use these vacations as a way to taste the “good life”. Most people seem almost as lost as I in terms of knowing when and how much to tip and all the other rules and expectations of pampered resort life. Alcohol and immature behavior seem to be the only ways people get beyond this performance anxiety of being a good hotel guest and tourist.

Historically the exhibition and exercise of wealth has always been accompanied by the amount of services one receives. From ancient Greece and Rome to modern England royalty and the wealthy have always been surrounded by servants who took care of their every need and desire.

I cannot relate to anyone who views having others to help clothe, feed and bathe them as a positive. In my world having wealth means being in control of all my time and what I decide to do with it. The wealthy who rely on servants and slaves have no true privacy. They are incessantly hovered over and watched by servants. The only way they have privacy is to ignore the presence of the servants and treat them as animals or invisible or inconsequential human beings.

In my world no one is inconsequential. When around others it is with a desire to share and interact with them. I want to understand their world and perspective and gain an appreciation for what gives their life joy and meaning. I want to feel their concerns and hopefully reach some point of agreement or commonality. I yearn for their validation and appreciation of my uniqueness as I want to validate them and appreciate their individuality.

The things I’ve enjoyed most of this vacation are the conversations I’ve had with others when they have disclosed to me something they hold dear, or when I’ve been able to catch a glimpse of how they experience their world. Likewise, my moments of joy in pure activity have come when I’ve been able to have a moment to taste and savor the local environment both in terms of nature and human community.

Lately the limits and harms of economics and capitalism in particular have dominated my thoughts. I used to be able to cite many benefits of modern economics along with its drawbacks and limitations, yet each passing day the harms and restrictions become more pronounced and the benefits become more relegated to the past tense. The benefits currently being produced and procured by capitalism I see as despite of rather than caused by our free market capitalistic society.

I feel like we’ve outgrown modern economics, that economics itself is a pseudo science like alchemy and that we are in dire need of the birth of chemistry. Yet, even more accurately I view economics in general as a stepping stone that has served its purpose and insufficient in successfully being able to meet the physical, emotional and intellectual needs of those living on the planet.

Modern economics is like a old pair of shoes that we have long outgrown. They use to provide us with protection, safety and were our means of comfortably moving forward and about, yet now they constrict, chafe and cause us more harm than good.

Jim Guido

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