Psychology


Music and Philosophy and Poetry and Politics and Psychology and Social Issues13 Aug 2017 07:38 pm

For those of you new to the site, or who haven’t visited in awhile I invite you to fully explore GuidoWorld and all it has to offer. If you click on to the Words tab at the far top right you will currently see four of my novels along with two of my nonfiction books.

I have recently updated the page so that the entire books are posted rather than just some selected chapters. Within the next year I plan on posting two or three more of my books, so by the time you finish reading the current menu of my works more should be available.

A couple tabs to the left of Words you will find the Music tab. There you will find the growing library of my albums. The music contained on the albums spans from the early 80’s all the way up to the present. Similar to the book menu, the posted music library will continue to grow and be of a higher quality throughout the year. Of the 19 albums currently listed 14 of them have been remixed and remastered and will show themselves as part of Bandcamp.

The remaining five plus an additional five more albums are in the process of being updated and remixed. My son, who is a far better recording technician than myself will be in charge of the new revised mixes. Since I have a huge backlog of songs and I still write and record between 8 and 12 songs a year, new albums will be appearing in the foreseeable future.

The podcast button is new and is rather sparse at this point. Within the next year or so I plan on beginning to record a number of podcasts that discuss my books and music, as well as all discuss and expand upon all of the social, political and psychological topics that you have covered in my posts over the last decade.

Those who have been faithful readers to this site know how much I am enthralled with life, and how much I relish the opportunity to share and to grow. Thanks for taking the time to read, listen to and ponder all that I have produced and posted over the years.
Enjoy!

United in Compassion,

Jim

Ecology and Government and Philosophy and Politics and Psychology and Relationships and Social Issues13 Jun 2017 06:43 pm

The KISS principle (keep it simple stupid) is said to have been originated in the early sixties by the navy and referred to the importance and benefit of simple design. Albert Einstein was a big proponent of the idea and felt that any good theory must be simple and elegant, and that complicated formulas and solutions are both inefficient and unusable.

Here is a Wikipedia’s article on the KISS principle:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KISS_principle

I have stated on numerous occasions that people generally make life far more complicated that it has to be. Experiences such as joy, happiness, peace and harmony are not that complicated, let alone idealistic. The majority of people conduct the vast majority of their social interactions in a peaceful and harmonious manner. In a world of indoor plumbing, potable water, electricity, etc. we are now in a position for most societies, if not the entire globe, to live increasingly comfortable and rewarding lives.

Yet, the greedy and power hungry minority spawn fear and hatred as a means of making the good life the possession of the few by complicating life and convincing the masses that life’s simple pleasures are idealistic and unattainable. Destroying the elegance and simplicity of cooperation by presenting the easiest conflict as unresolvable and flatly stating that all realistic options and acts of diplomacy have been exhausted when nary a one has been explored.

When breaking down a rewarding life into its simplest terms I come up with a few observations. First I yearn for intimacy. I don’t just mean having an intimate relationship with other people, but an intimate relationship with myself, nature and life in general. Intimacy is just the natural process of becoming closer and more familiar with something. One can be intimate with almost any object, idea or activity. I explored this in depth in my book Exploring Intimacy which can be read here:

http://guidoworld.com/words/exploring-intimacy

The second major category is to better enjoy the integration of all aspects of our/my experience. This would mean that I enjoy the sensorial, emotional and mental aspects of my life. In other words I learn how to maximize my experience by enjoying and savoring my being a thinking and feeling sentient person which exists in a body and lives in a world. The third element is my feeling connected to the world and act in a way which improves and maintains not only my quality of life but that of all of organic life.

Applying these ideas to our shared social world we come up with the following. We can keep things simple if we focus on the following. First we should not only tolerate but encourage all to find and cultivate intimacy in their lives. Second we can protect the quality of people’s lives and experiences by not destroying the environment and endangering people’s health through dumping toxins and poisons into our air, land and water.

The third guiding principle is that the major goal and concern of all personal and social behavior is to be life affirming. Being life affirming not only has us move away from poisoning our land, water and air, but also dictates that we make peace and harmony the goal and focus of all our decisions. In a life affirming society any action which harms others or the environment would be attended to and not be allowed to become entrenched or a habit of government. No action which caused harm or impaired the quality of life would be considered an act of progress or even tolerated. Only actions which enhanced or maintained the quality of life of the majority would be considered progress.

Einstein pointed out that one needs to be as simple as one can be without becoming too simple. While intimacy and integrated experience are relatively straight forward, the concept of being life affirming will always be a work in progress. In many situations it will be easy to determine what is life affirming, yet in many areas assessing what is the most life affirming option both near and far term will be challenging.

The fact that social utopias do not exist should not be alarming nor discouraging. The fact that life is an endless process of improvement and development only adds to its preciousness, and is inherent in the concept of intimacy. Yet, do let the greedy and power hungry convince you that life’s lack of perfection means everything is too complicated and joy, peace and harmony are idealistic fictions. Joy, intimacy and harmony are real experiences and not ideals. Real experience is never perfect, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be simple or elegant.

One does not have to deny the reality of pain and suffering to appreciate the reality of joy, love, intimacy and harmony.

Jim Guido

 

 

 

Psychology and Relationships and Social Issues12 Mar 2017 01:14 pm

Skin-on-skin contact is not only essential in infancy, but plays a privileged role in our physical and mental health throughout our lives. A lack of physical contact can lead to increased depression and anxiety as well as being linked to heart disease and many forms of cancer.

While nothing duplicates the biochemical benefits of a rewarding sex life, affection, exercise and social bonding all have measurable physical and psychological rewards. Moments of physical and social comfort and connection reduce one’s stress level and improve one’s view of self and the world at large.

A good deal of live in person human contact and communication has been replaced by indirect and distant forms of interaction via technologies such as the computer and phone. While the amount and frequency of human contact has stagnated or declined the amount and frequency of affection people receive from their pets has increased sharply. It would be safe to say that a great percentage of people now give and receive more affection from cats, dogs and other animals than they do from other humans.

While incredibly rewarding, human affection and interaction, is often very complicated and conflictual. Affection with animals comes easy and has very little strings attached to it. Animals rarely rebuff our attention and affections and are generally available to us at our beckoning.


Continue Reading »

Philosophy and Psychology10 Oct 2016 04:05 pm

Let’s begin by breaking down an experience into its simplest parts. All events are not experiences. The difference between an event and an experience is that an event needs to be accompanied by at least a modicum of awareness for it to become an experience. Therefore:

Event + Awareness = Experience

There are many levels and means of being aware. As humans we are not only aware of our environment but also possess a self-awareness. While there is emerging data that supports the fact we are not the only sentient beings with a nascent sense of themselves, it is generally accepted that our level of self-awareness is unparalleled in the animal kingdom. Our complex and highly articulate use of language is the medium through which our heightened form of self-consciousness seems to most reside. Therefore, we could use this observation to modify our above formula of experience to:

Sensorial perception + Self-consciousness = Experience or

Sentience + Thought = Experience

Yet, even this expanded formula for experience leaves out an important element of human experience. While the definition of sentience involves both feeling and perceiving, the feeling aspect of sentience is usually more literal in that we sensorial feel things rather than emotionally feel things. Yet, for humans the emotional aspect of feeling is an important if not essential element of our experience. So, our expanded formula for human experience should be:

Sentience + Thought + Emotion/Feeling = Experience

You may wonder why I included feelings along with emotions, that is because I make a distinction between feelings and emotions. Feelings are often more a part of our sentient self falling below the level of awareness of the self-conscious ego. Feeling can be viewed as a general attitudinal background for our experiences. We may feel safe, calm, relaxed, agitated, irritated, or anxious without necessarily being consciously aware of this underlying state.

Emotions, on the other hand, are generally more conscious reactions to these underlying feelings or a reactive response to others or events in our environment. As an example someone who is feeling uncomfortable may be more susceptible to becoming angry or harsh with others. While feelings are what we viscerally feel, emotions are literally what we emote.

Each of the above elements of our experience equation provides some richness and fullness that the other lacks or cannot provide. A rich maximized experience would be more than a thought in our head, or an emotion of our heart but a total integration of body, heart and mind or as our equation states an integration of sentience (sensorial perception), thought and emotion.

Often when walk, drive a car or engage in any habitual activity we go on a form of auto-pilot in which we act and function without necessarily being self-consciously aware of what we are doing. We usually have enough awareness to not run into another car, or not fall or hurt ourselves as we make adjustments to minor changes in the terrain such as curbs, tree roots, parking meters as we mindlessly walk along a new or unfamiliar landscape.

Yet, functioning on remote control, while functional, is far from maximizing our experience. Likewise, if I’m absorbed in petty thoughts regarding a huge list of things I plan on doing in the future while at that moment being disconnected from the food I’m eating or the scenery I’m walking along, I am once again far from engaging in my experience in a rich and fulfilling manner. Even deep and challenging thoughts can be a little thin in the experience department if not accompanied by poignant feelings and sensorial context.

It would seem obvious that fulfilling experience is more likely when it integrates all elements of human experience, and does so with each element open full throttle. The old image of an engine maximizing its speed potential by using all of it cylinders seems apt. So does the image of filling the bathtub through fully opening up all three faucets of sentience, thought and emotion.

It is important to keep in mind that more isn’t alway better. While full use of one’s thoughts, senses and perception, and feelings and emotions increases our potential for personal fulfillment and rich experience, it does not necessarily maximize our experience or produce lasting joy. Such cellular joy comes when one acts in a life affirming manner and remains sensitive to one’s personal wants and needs.

Despite the apparent obviousness that an exhaustive use of our mind, heart and body is better able to produce rich and full experience, this expansive approach towards happiness and fulfillment runs counter to millennia of human experience. A great deal of human history focused on reduction rather than expansion and the vestiges of that tendency still dominate modern society and its methods to live a meaningful and happy life.

The expansionist and reductionist ways of dealing with human experience both seem to be present in the life of early man. Earliest records show that man often did not feel to be the author of his own thoughts and feelings. More often than not even the most basic thought and feeling was considered to be a gift or curse of the gods. Early man often desired to flee this fragile sense of self by partaking in ceremonies and rituals whose goal was to achieve ecstasy, which literally meant to get beyond oneself. Despite this goal the ceremonies themselves were often expansive and integrative. One reached the ecstatic state, through chanting, dance, and participating in or observing emotionally and meaning laden operatic parts. While the participants routinely testified to reaching a unified state beyond individuality, they did retain enough awareness to experience this supposed state of fusion.

Yet, the tendency towards reducing experience was also present in the desire to make a distinction between the sacred and the profane, or the exceptional and the mundane. According to this viewpoint life was inherently meaningless or even sinful, and one’s only hope of finding solace and significance was through making contact with the holy or the sacred.

This need to transcend suffering, uncover the great mysteries of life, and create order out of chaos became the central goal of the majority of cultures and societies. Through time it became increasingly necessary to divorce oneself from some aspects or elements of human experience in order to uncover eternal truths, avoid sin, or obtain salvation or eternal life.

Many of our disciplines became very disparaging and mistrustful of our body and its sensory perceptions and emotions. Plato viewed physical and perceptual life as a deceptive illusion feeling that truth and perfection were found instead in ideas, ideals and concepts. Science likewise felt subjectivity and naive perception were obstacles to the acquiring of the underlying mathematically perfect laws that house absolute Truth. Scientific objectivity was acquired by reducing, stripping away, and isolating variables. Religion, spiritualism and mysticism likewise rejected the tangible and the beauty of human experience replacing it with transcendence, essence, spirit and alternate realities. Even the classical arts sought to find the skeleton of truth by reducing our experience to the mathematics of pure form and attempting to find the true laws of idyllic beauty.

This is not to say that the above reductionist tendency was a complete mistake or itself an illusion. Yet, the negative attitude towards integrated human experience, was often unnecessary and has had many unfortunate consequences. The important fact that each time the scientific method found human perception to be illusionary or false, it was corrected by another human perception is often missed. What was gained by objectivity and reductionism was somewhat nullified by the danger of our disrespecting and vilifying our emotional and sensorial world. When spirit and mathematical Truth is all that matters than it become increasingly less important to not poison the air, water and land, or where war, torture, rape and the quality of life of each sentient being becomes inconsequential or the means by which the good defeats evil.

Knowledge, wisdom and intimacy all involve the ability to see and feel things from a multitude of perspectives. We learn much when we reduce and focus our vision when using a microscope and we also often benefit by expanding our vision telescopically to see the big picture. Yet, joy is an expansive experience, and maximizing one’s experience is best accomplished by savoring and integrating all the elements of human experience. The human body is no less a marvel than the mind, and feelings are the spice of life without which joy is impossible. The body feels pleasure, the heart feels joy and the mind feels wonder, such is the incredible beauty of being human and the expansive full range of human experience.

Jim Guido

Philosophy and Psychology and Relationships17 Feb 2016 09:06 am

The following is the introduction from my book Exploring Intimacy which can be accessed by clicking on the words tab. The entire book is available for your perusal and I would love to hear your thoughts on it.

INTRODUCTION

Throughout most of my life there has been an attitudinal thread running through me. All my thoughts, actions and feelings have come together to form one unified view of life. This unified view forms the basis of my theory of intimacy.

This theory tends to all the major questions of life including, what is love, where do I find meaning, how can I be happy, and how can I derive the most from my moment to moment experiences?

The basic views outlined in this book were initially formed as early as high school but began to take shape and become organized in my early twenties. Since then I have been pleasantly surprised to see how my earliest intuitions have been validated through all I have read and experienced throughout the years.

While other people I knew created their ideal world around religious beliefs, love, faith, or psychological/philosophical schools of thought, I instead found myself drawn to a very practical way of looking at and appreciating my experiences. This attitude soon found a name, that being intimacy.

In my life intimacy has been more than a catch word or a vague feeling, for me it is a basic orientation towards life. It is what motivates and propels me towards the future. This book is an introduction to the very program of my existence.

In a society as fast paced and media oriented as ours a word or idea can become popular very quickly. The term intimacy, seldom used before the late sixties, has become quite fashionable over the last few decades. Once the sole property of poets and a gentile substitute for more direct sexual descriptions, intimacy is now a term used by almost everyone.

References to intimacy are common in magazines, novels, and self-help books. Psychiatrists, psychologists and many other therapeutic professionals refer to human intimacy in almost everything they say. Radio and television talk shows donate entire programs to the discussion of the relative merits of intimacy. Instead of talking politics, or exchanging local gossip, friends now often evaluate the amount of intimacy in their lives, or discuss the “intimate” details of their latest relationship.

Intimacy is most often described as something desired and desirable. Many individuals and therapists make intimacy a goal, something to attain which will enrich one’s life. Yet, like many popular terms, the meaning of intimacy is taken for granted. We use the term like we all know what it means. Seldom does anyone ever define the term, and if so they usually do it in a demeaning way, (as if only an insensitive moron would not know the meaning of the word).

The lack of a clear definition is occasionally recognized as a problem. Yet, instead of providing a definition of what intimacy is, people generally choose to end the confusion by stating what it is not. A common example of this would be that sexual intimacy is not just having sex.

Sex, though a popular form of intimacy, is not the only recognized area of intimacy. One often hears of people “hiding their most intimate secrets”, or sharing their “most intimate dreams”. Desire, love, religious piety, personal beliefs and dreams are all viewed as being proper arenas of intimacy.

What is the beauty of intimacy which makes it such an attractive and desired element in our lives? Why are people who claim to have found and attained intimacy in their lives envied and doubted? Why and how has intimacy become a litmus test for personal happiness, and a pre-requisite for achieving self-fulfillment?

These questions lead us to reconsider our perceptions of intimacy, and our views of someone considered to be an intimate person. Though we function under no clear definition of intimacy we do have some pretty strong ideas of the type of people leading intimate lives.

An intimate person is viewed as being open, caring and sensitive, able to see and work on the shortcomings in himself, while recognizing and openly complimenting the strengths of others. An intimate person accepts and gives love without strings being attached and is devoted to those he loves. Women are generally viewed as being more inclined towards intimacy, and often complain about the boorish nature of men and their inability to even appreciate intimacy let alone live it.

The preceding sketchy outline of an intimate person may seem a bit narrow and idealized, but that is what happens when we do not define terms we use. Love, like intimacy, is a word we have trivialized and trampled to death. Yet, the short amount of time we have abused the term intimacy allows us an opportunity to restore the dignity the word deserves.

Intimacy, like love, is much more than a word like boat which names a specific object. Intimacy is a concept articulating an entire stance towards life. Also like love, it is a force we desire to engulf our lives, a worthy goal of the human spirit.

In Exploring Intimacy, we will not only define intimacy, but explore it. We will look at how our current views of intimacy were formed and how this view could shape and be altered by our future. Most importantly we will try to become intimate with intimacy itself, we will look at it, sniff it, and devour each tasty morsel it has to offer.
We will see how our desire to be intimate pervades every aspect of our lives and potentially influences each individual thought we have or action we take. Our investigation into intimacy will involve more than a discussion of sexual relationships, or even friendships in general. Our exploration will be into all relationships we have, including those we have with ourselves, nature, spirituality, art and knowledge.

Leading an intimate life is a never ending task, complex and challenging. No one person’s life is devoid of intimacy. Nor is anyone’s life unable to be made more intimate. The more we know about a specific subject or object the more intimate we can become with that person or thing. Intimacy is infinite because there is no limit to the number of ways we can view even the most mundane object. In this book intimacy will be found to be a pervasive force and an on-going approach at the very heart of human experience.

Philosophy and Psychology20 May 2015 10:55 am

The better people can predict and understand their surroundings the more likely their continued survival. This fact underlies our age old desire to answer the question why and propels our interest in science, religion and philosophy or any other inquiry increasing our knowledge of ourselves, others and nature. Our desire to survive and have a good life underpins our inclination to make sense of things and create societies providing justice, freedom and protection.

Humankind has spent a great deal of time and energy searching for ways to mentally and emotionally cope with and understand death, suffering, disease and physical harm. People have theorized many reasons why people die or endure great suffering and misfortune. In myth, religion and mysticism we find many roots of misfortune. Sometimes it was a form of punishment due to the breaking of a law, taboo or divine interdiction. At other times misfortune came to one due to a curse placed on oneself or one’s ancestors, or as a result of magic. At other times it was attributed to a stain or contamination that has occurred, often without one’s direct knowledge. Vestiges of such ancient explanations remain in modern times in theories and beliefs regarding of sin, karma and the existence of evil.

While death is hard to accept under any circumstance it was and is particularly difficult to deal with when it pertains to the young and innocent. Humankind has always struggled to explain and justify the death or disability of a young child or infant. Death may be inevitable, but suffering and misfortune do not happen to everyone, and man has often had a hard time justifying why bad things happen to good people.

The great majority of misfortune and suffering was observed to be beyond the powers of human control and intervention. Therefore, it was common to hand over the reasons and causes of death and calamity to beings with powers which greatly superseded the capabilities of humans.

People all over the globe formed belief systems on how best to protect oneself from the ill will of higher powers. Aligning oneself with, winning the favor of, appeasing, placating, or even sometimes fooling the powers or gods became the general means of insuring oneself a favorable fate and averting suffering and misfortune. Some cultures focused on making sacrifices to the gods, others on learning the ways of power and controlling them through magic and sorcery, others focused on the benefits of revering and begging the mercy of the powerful spirits.

While humankind as a whole was not able to completely overcome the capriciousness of ill fortune, individuals and sometimes entire tribes could engage in activities and rituals which brought them good fortune or averted suffering or “unnecessary” harm. Religion and spirituality are full of legends, stories, allegories and myths which describe events and strategies of heroes, gods and common people who have found the means of averting danger and soliciting good fortune.

The gods of greek and roman mythology shared many of the same traits and emotions as the humans that worshipped them. The apparent capriciousness and irrationality of fate was made understandable when controlled by beings that lusted, had pride, were vain and had a need to be revered and adored. The human quality of the gods, while making them less reliable and consistent, made it possible for the faithful to find ways to win their favor or have them intervene on their behalf. So, the myths of roman and greek gods both explained why fate was often so cruel and filled with suffering, and at the same time offered a means by which people could improve their lot in life through worship, heroes, and rites and rituals.

In monotheistic religions or those that focused on a sole creator the supreme power seldom retained any weaknesses, fallibilities or human personality traits. The creator God was all powerful, perfect and good. Many of the creation gods were also promised eternal life and salvation for all of the faithful that lived a good life. In this way the injustices of fate were often made tolerable by the fact that eternal life awaited those who remained devoted and faithful to God and his wishes. While prayer could occasionally result in divine intervention, even ill fortune and injustice suffered in this life would be rectified in the here after.

While an all good and perfect God may be both worthy of worship and the title of divinity, there are numerous drawbacks for the faithful. If God is perfect and all good, than anything wrong in the world in due to our fallible and sinful nature. A perfect god is incapable of capricious, petty or malicious behavior. Any perception on our part of injustice is either born of our ignorance or as just recompense for some offense we have committed.

If god is perfect, then so is his creation, and since we are the only creature bestowed with a free will, than all sin and fault is ours and ours alone. When God and his creation are perfect and good then the irony of having a free will is that the only way we can express our individuality is through doing something un-godlike and imperfect (sinful). If we put everything that we did, think and feel that differed from a perfect god into a bag, its contents would only consist of error, sin, stupidity, vanity and all other forms of imperfection and non-goodness. So, while we are told that we are made in God’s image, our entire individuality is expressed in the negative, in sin and in evil.

Belief systems involving a perfect God usually include a story of the fall of man in which evil entered the world and the idyllic relationship between God and man was severed. Often this severed relationship is when evil entered the world, and permanently stained all generations of man with this original sin.

I’m not saying that the above is explicitly stated by all religions and belief systems involving a perfect God. Yet, the conclusions reached are the logical ramifications and implications inherent in a perfect God of which I am not the first to recognize or state. In fact, the belief that man’s nature is basically sinful and base has often been expressed by prophets, sages, saints and holy men throughout the world as reason and need for us to obey and praise God as well explaining why we should never question him/her.

When accepting the existence if a perfect god there are only two answers to the question, “why do babies die?” One answer is that it is a mystery that far surpasses our feeble and imperfect understanding. The second answer is that it is our fault that babies die due to our natures and that all suffering and evil entered into the world through our thoughts, actions and feelings.

Our belief in a perfect god comes with a price to our own sense of worth and value. A child who is told by their parent that they are sinful and evil and that they have nothing to offer but obedience seldom ends up being a healthy, loving and productive adult. So how does our sinful view of ourselves induced by our revering a perfect god impact the way we live and feel about ourselves and our ability to solve social problems and live in harmony with others?

If we have a free will it should be viewed and exercised in a way in which we can be happy with ourselves and harmonious with our contemporaries and with nature. Our choice shouldn’t be between arrogant pride and self-degradation, or between conceit and subservience. Admitting that we are limited and fallible does not mean that we are incompetent or toxic, but only that we are vulnerable and are capable of making things worse as well as making things better.

Jim Guido

Philosophy and Psychology and Social Issues15 May 2015 06:35 pm

When putting together a list of the greatest inventions of humankind, the wheel is always near the top. The wheel is considered to be one the most versatile and important tools used in a host of settings. Along with the lever, the wheel is best known for its ability to assist us in getting work done. A fraction of the amount of work and effort is involved by wheeling things around as opposed to lifting and carrying. Almost every form of human transport whether it be used for work, commerce or battle involves machines utilizing the wheel. The wheel has deserved the title of being the most essential and basic tool in human labor and in our ability to do work, efficiently, safely and quickly.

While the wheel is the quintessential symbol of work, the ball is the most familiar and ubiquitous tool of play. We humans never tire of kicking, throwing, batting, dribbling, striking, hitting, paddling, spinning and rolling balls. Many games and sports involve contacting the ball directly while others hit the ball with an utensil specifically designed for the game or activity. While balls and spheres can be used for work as well as play, they are generally associated with play.

One could make a case for the ball being just as useful as the wheel, and just as prevalent in the lives of every person. Yet, the fact that the ball is equated with play as in “having a ball” or “take me out to the ball game”, and the wheel with work as in “have your shoulder to the wheel” makes the wheel seem more important. Our society has a tendency to glorify and value work while belittling play as being trite and superficial.

Yet, when one looks at the fight for survival in the animal kingdom play is just as important as work. Each predator and prey spends the bulk of their childhood learning their basic survival skill set through play. Human children too spend the bulk of their developmental years learning the basic skills of being human through play. Play dominates learning, growing and development in humans and animals. Play also is at the center of bonding and relationship building in all societies be they human or animal.

The typical ball is a sphere, a complete three-dimensional globe measuring 360 degrees. If you were to strip away a good portion of a ball leaving a narrow tread you would be left with a ball. In essence a wheel is just a mutilated ball with a relatively narrow tread. While a ball is able to go in any direction with complete ease, the wheel can only go backward and forward and needs specific steering mechanism to alter its course.

A wheel is linear and predictable and, therefore, ideal for work and repetitive tasks. A ball is omnidirectional and spontaneous and perfect for play and inventiveness. Our culture’s bias favoring work while viewing play as trivial or something one outgrows is what prevents the ball from being viewed as an important invention or human accomplishment. I for one think that work is overrated and that play is truly an essential ingredient in the quality of life and human fulfillment.

So stop being a fifth wheel, and start having a ball.

Economics and Government and Psychology and Social Issues and Stock Market28 Feb 2014 01:45 pm

While most of our attention is focused on our “losing jobs” to China, India and many emerging or third world nations, we may be missing the more important ways in which our basic economic structure is changing. In many ways it appears that our Industrial Free Market Economy is being transformed into a economic system based on Financial Instruments.

Over the last number of decades we have been referred to as a consumer based economy in which the health of the economy was dependent on the increased velocity of money being fueled by strong and generally increasing expenditure and consumption. Recessions or down turns in the economic health of the nation was accompanied by drops in consumption and expenditures. The economy “contracted” at these time periods with businesses laying off workers in response to a drop in revenues and profits as consumption stagnated or decreased.

In a society in which its economic system is dependent on the consumption of goods and services there was always a need for people to be employed and for wages to increase to support their being able to continue to consume, invest and make major purchases to stimulate the economy.
Since the beginning of the industrial revolution modern societies have found an increasing need for the vast majority of citizens to fulfill three roles, that being consumer, worker/producer and soldier. The woman’s movement almost doubled the pool of possible workers and with two pay checks per household as compared to one, allowed for a sharp increase in both production and consumption.

The rising populations throughout the industrialized societies impelled its economic and political leaders to support their consumer cultures by trying to monopolize the natural resources of the globe. A surplus of oil, foodstuffs, natural gas, minerals, potable water, etc. were all needed materials and essentials to keep the consumer based economies humming and expanding.

Many so called underdeveloped nations were somewhat opposed to their surrendering these resources or not having them be the main benefactors or their economic value. The wealthier industrialized nations felt they were the proper stewards of these precious and valuable commodities and felt other nations should trust in their proper management and global dissemination.

According to the industrial nations those envious of the industrialized nations must be subdued and forcibly assisted in becoming better and more moral nations. In this manner constant protection and advancement depended on forming the most formidable of military forces which then required the role of soldier to become paramount, rivaling both the roles of consumer and produces in their importance for the continued success and functioning of the consumer culture.

The industrialized world was led by “free democratic” societies who felt their way of life threatened by the existence of totalitarian, communist and even egalitarian socialistic societies. Such political and economic diversity was not tolerable for a social economic structure that was dependent on both the increased access to and dominance of food, energy, and industrial materials and technologies by the elite industrial nations. The equating of freedom and free trade made military might and superiority not only palatable but a moral imperative. Freedom and fighting for freedom became synonymous, and the possibility of freedom without war became a somewhat mocked and unrealistic ideal.

Protecting our freedom and way of life, from the morally bankrupt and evil despots led many to “proudly serve” in the military and to support our governments policies and political agendas. These people viewed themselves and their nation as the true bastions of freedom, justice and moral righteousness.
One of the true ironies of our sense of progress and the ideal of an ever expanding worker/producer consumer culture, is the role of technology and its impact on our lives. While it is true that every advance in technology creates jobs, it is also true that most advances in technology replace more jobs and human labor than they create. Machines and inventions have almost always increased production and made businesses less dependent on human labor, or at least reduced the number of man hours necessary to produce the same number of goods.

Increases in production via technological advances has been astounding often in a geometric progression. Likewise, the areas in which technology dramatically increased production is finding itself in not only almost every area of manual labor but also in the service economy.  While the possibility of our being able to create a fully automated society freed of human labor is still up for debate, the fact that each passing day the need for a smaller and smaller percentage and number of people working is a unavoidable reality. The old truism that automation only replaces unskilled labor and jobs unfit for human beings is no longer  accurate in any sense. In fact you could say that the last decade saw more highly skilled jobs, such as surgeons and systems analysts, being replaced by robots and computers that can deal with huge reams of information, microscopic precision and nanotechnology.

Modern technology, robotics and artificial technology are overcoming human error, limitations and vulnerabilities. In many industries we can produce in a matter of hours what we most likely will consume in months or even years. As technology becomes more gifted (as workers and producers) our role as workers and producers becomes more and more unnecessary and obsolete. While this is rather easy to fathom, it is harder for most people to recognize that our role as a consumer is likewise becoming increasingly unnecessary since the last recession.

Despite rather anemic growth in consumption accompanied by rising unemployment and falling wages the stock market and corporate profits are positively booming. Those working in the sweat factories abroad are now making maybe $200 a year rather than the $100 a year they used to make. These people are replacing jobs in the industrial nations that made anywhere from $18,000 to over $40,000 a year. So while the decreased wages are cutting down on overhead, they are also greatly reducing the pool of disposable income available to buy products that should be necessary for corporate profits and stock performance.

How are corporations able to make record profits if the consumers of their products and services are unemployed, making less money, and have less disposable income available? Add to this conundrum the fact that banks have drastically cut back the number of loans given out during this entire meteoric rise in corporate profits and the stock market. Well if people have no money to spend, and they can’t borrow it, where are these record profits and stock prices coming from?

During the time which we now refer to as the Great Recession we were told that our entire financial system was in crisis and the threat of total collapse was imminent. The stock market and financial systems survival was accomplished through a massive injection of money into the marketplace via bailouts, loans and ample money printing.

While the economy continued to struggle and unemployment rose, the financial and stock markets began to show signs of not only stabilizing, but regaining the majority of losses. While the financial press continued to debate the existence of “green shoots” and whether we’d have another recession, the stock market had already doubled since its low and the housing prices were beginning to inch back up. The “jobless recovery” has never really ended while the stock and financial markets are at new all time highs. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, these new highs and corporate profits have been accomplished despite and maybe even because of a struggling economy.

In an industrial consumer economy there is a ceiling of how high profits can go in a high unemployment and low wage environment. Without jobs and expanding disposable income (higher wages) consumer spending is bound to slow down if not contract. Yet, one of the biggest and longest stock market runs in occurring in a stagnant or low growth economy where over 95% of financial gain has been acquired by the top 1% of the populace.
These facts seem to point to the fact that we no longer live in a consumer based economy and instead are experiencing the birth of a new economic model. Let’s look at some of the reasons this new model could be referred to as a financial instrument model.

The financial crisis was averted and the stock market rebounded when the Federal Reserve and other Central Banks began printing money and thereby “injecting liquidity into the marketplace”. The stock market was buoyed by relatively free money being used to buy stocks which had come down sharply in price. Troubled banks, financial institutions, and corporations were bailed out or give huge near zero percent loans to help them pay off their debts and stabilize their businesses.

While these extreme measures were implemented to avoid a catastrophe, the money printing, loans and bailouts have continued. In essence the financial behemoths which were declared too big to fail, have been receiving free freshly created money to use in any manner which they find beneficial.

Since many of these businesses are banks and other financial institutions which make no tangible merchandise or products, they have used this money to purchase financial instruments which are making a solid yield, repurchasing their own stock, and investing it in the financial world of stocks and bonds.

Many of the troubled financial institutions were saddled with bad loans and mortgages that were “under water” and had no hope of ever being paid off. The Federal Reserve took it upon themselves to purchase billions of dollars of this unserviceable through financial instruments such as mortgage backed securities to take these burdensome debts off of the books.

The transfer process was/is quite simple. The Fed would electronically create “print” money and use it to buy bad debt such as unserviceable bank loans. The debt purchased by the Fed would be transferred from the banks to the tax payer by being added to the
national debt.

The businesses and non financial corporations receiving newly created money via low interest loans and bailouts mainly chose to follow the path resulting in maximizing their short term financial gain. So, rather than lower their profit margins by increasing their overhead through building factories, hiring workers, increasing worker pay and expanding their businesses they mainly did the same as the banks and make most of their profits through stock buy backs, investing in financial instruments, and actually reducing overhead by closing factories, cutting wages and benefits, and when possible passing on expenses to the government (taxpayers).

Measures which were taken to avert an economic meltdown have now become business as usual. Money printing and financial instruments have become the way money is made by the top fraction of one percent of the populace. As long as money is being electronically created and injected into the marketplace via the coffers of the 1% there is little need for a consumer to spend his dwindling pennies on products and services. Every dollar printed just adds to the pool of money available and if that money is placed directly into the hands of the wealthiest their relative worth skyrockets as the relative wealth of everyone else plummets.

Is a Post Industrial Financial Instrument Economy sustainable? Are the financial elite going to eventually meet resistance or truly need the consumer, worker and soldier?

With each passing day advances in automation, nanotechnology, robotics, artificial intelligence, surveillance, and military technology are making the roles of worker, consumer and soldier increasingly unnecessary for the acquisition and securing of wealth. Through debt, taxes, suspension of entitlements, destruction of worker rights and protections, the loss of privacy, and the legal erosion of our basic inalienable rights and freedoms we are losing any recourse we may have had to defend our role and purpose in this new global economy as well as any way to insure our economic self-determination.

The stock market is currently enjoying its longest stretch, some 60 months, without a correction of 20% or more. The longer this goes on the more it supports the possibility that we have truly entered a new economic paradigm in which automation, perceptual management and financial instruments have replaced the old rules and dynamics of an industrial based economy. While I personally think this economic paradigm coup is premature and ill fated, and the coming stock market crash will be historic in nature, I am unwilling to totally discount this new financial instrument based economy succeeding now or in the near future.

In such a world where the common man becomes superfluous at best and a burden at worst we may look back at Brave New World and 1984 as comparatively rosy views of the future.

Jim Guido

 

Philosophy and Psychology and Social Issues03 Aug 2013 05:47 pm

The ability for us to document our lives and track our personal history is increasing on an almost daily basis. We can now take real time photos, videos and voice recordings with assorted hand held devices which we can carry with us at all times. We can take notes, do research, text, email and communicate with others most anytime and anyplace.

Most recent events can be recalled by this documentation or found via a research engine in a matter of moments as long as we can remember a few keywords. If I forget the name of a song I heard or a movie I once saw I can find it on-line as long as I can remember anything from a line of dialogue or lyric, to a band or actor name or some other minor fragment that relates to the work. 


All my essays, lyrics, poems, books and songs that I have documented through and on various mediums from computer, to this website to more dated technologies such as notebooks, typewritten manuscript or tape recorder are there for my perusal. Some of the information and data I remember with great clarity, some of it triggers or reconstitutes the old thoughts, feelings and memories and some of it was all but forgotten. Yet, due to all this documentation it is there for me to embrace and include in my sense of self and personal history.


An integrative aspect of memory is the concept of time. While clocks have been with us for centuries, our functional awareness of the hour, minute and even the second has been growing exponentially over the last century or so. We our surrounded, encapsulated and imbedded in chronological time. Our ability to document our memories with precisely noted time is becoming second nature.


All that I have documented becomes cemented in the historical me. It is all part of my sense of continuity and becomes incorporated in that lived consistency we call the ego. My memory aided by all the technological documentation deepens my sense of personal growth and development and my pride in being an ever evolving unique and relatively consistent individual.


The fast paced life we live, in which we are exposed to more information in a day then the majority of our ancestors experienced in their lifetime places a heavy burden on our memory and the mental storage of our lives and thoughts. This massive amount of facts, social interactions, perceptions, sensations and reflections is almost impossible to store in our short and long term memory banks. Our desire to manage, organize and retrieve this information is causing us to find better and more efficient ways to outsource our memory through many of the documentation mediums mentioned above.


Without our usage of these various mediums of documentation and storage our sense of personal history and sense of self would be far more limited. Many memories of past experiences, thoughts and feelings would fade, mutate or be lost completely. Even things as basic as how we looked, what we wore, items we owned even places we frequented would wither and often dissolve without the assistance of photos, diaries, letters and various other forms of documentation which crystalizes our existence for us to review.


The value and importance of memory is almost impossible to over emphasize. Our sense of self and the meaning we derive from life is almost completely dependent on memory and the flow and consistency it provides our existence. I can suffer many physical injuries and still remain Jim Guido. 


My social and personal identity is not endangered by sickness, loss of physical prowess or even the loss of a limb. In extreme cases such events and occurrences could alter or modify my self-image, but they would not extinguish it. As long as my memory stays in tact, and my ability to retrieve and take ownership of documented history survives, my sense of identity remains and my life story continues on unabated.


Yet, as in the case of dementia or Alzheimer’s, when memory fades and can be lost forever, the sense of self can wane and die long before the body. At some critical point of mental decay the person we knew is gone, and the ghost inside the body is no longer someone we recognize. The eyes become vacant and time has shrunk to the immediate. Anticipation, reflection, savoring and relishing, love, gratitude and simple recognition all belong to the world of memory and time. 


Anyone who espouses the beauty of “living in the moment” and bewails “the babbling ego” which distracts one from the present is glossing over the vital role that the past and future play in the very act of cognition and appreciation. If I truly lived in the moment, there would be no memory and no documentation. Duration gives experience depth, significance and meaning. Memory is duration personified.


Our modern world is rife with technologies of expression and documentation which provide the potential for us to have very rich lives. We can remember and savor so much of our experience, and make the past within arms length ever ready to enrich our lives and fortify our sense of development and history. The various forms of tangible documentation increase the intimacy we have with others, ourselves and our surroundings filling our existence with meaning and significance.


Yet, the various forms of instantaneous communication available also pose a threat to memory, meaning and the richness born of reflection. The constant need to be online, plugged in, and on the grid can have us obsess with the fear of missing the very next moment or event. 


Our constant taking photos distances us from the very experience we are documenting, making us more observer than participant. A person unable to unplug, stop streaming, texting and engaging in the technologies is a person who has no time to reflect, savor and weave their memories into the fabric of their internal lives. Such a person is locked in the temporal present and is missing the beauty of integrating the past and present thereby deepening one’s memory and developmental history.


One wonders if our increasing dependence on the external mediums of documentation are weakening rather than aiding and supporting our internal memory. Is our internal memory like a muscle that needs to be exercised and challenged to function at optimal efficiency and avoid premature entropy? The brain which in many ways is the skeleton of mind may in deed be in need of the synaptic exercise to retain the very pathways which forge memory. 


With the specter of dementia still fresh in our minds lets take a moment to ponder the way we manufactured the acquiring of memory with less tangible documentation. Two of the most primitive means of tangible documentation were drawing and the written language. Before the emergence of written language the exchange of information, and the process of teaching and learning was accomplished orally. This pre-literate world we still can observe in children and oral cultures which have resisted the adoption or at least total reliance on the written word.


Cultures that held on to oral traditions or had difficulty adapting their language to the written word often found the written word lacking in substance. Many oral cultures found the nuances that housed the subtleties of meaning to be lost through the written word. Some languages were as much song as word, and the intonations carried a richness and meaning that could not be duplicated by grammar and diacritical marks. Other cultures found their meaning highly stilted and diluted by the absence of gesture, as their language was as much mime and dance as it was speech.


These obstacles and limitations of the written word are not foreign to modern man. Even an abstract language such as English loses much when written. It is easy to miss the emotional subtleties or tenor of the writer/speaker when you read an email or text message. Oftentimes emotional presentations involving sarcasm, irony, frustration and even confusion can be lost or misinterpreted in written language.


Despite the growth in technologies it is easiest to understand a person whom we are viewing and sitting in the same room with as they speak. Next but not quite as effective, would be where we could see their gestures and hear their intonations in a Skype situation. Next would be a telephone conversation and at the bottom of the communication totem pole would be the written word, with essays, letters and books slightly edging out instant messaging and short texts.


The earliest forms of writing lacked grammar and were often very poor at transmitting information or personal experience. The earliest forms of writing seemed to serve a mnemonic function more than expressive. The symbols seemed to be personal reminders than articulations. In this manner the first written notes of man seemed to be a way for them to remember something, and did not attempt to go any further.


The means by which we transfer information into memory for pre-literate children seems to have stayed the same for generations. Whether in a day care center or at home a child’s learning world is dominated by song, story, myth/fable, and theater. You walk into a day care center and the daily schedule and every transition is preceded by and learnt by a song or rhyme. Children commit the alphabet, number and other basic facts to memory through the use of song. We teach children moral and social mores through stories and fables. The bulk of a pre-literate child’s turning of facts or information into memory is accomplished through song, rhyme and story.


Much of how a pre-literate child learns and commits things to memory is replicated in oral and pre-literate societies throughout history. People learnt when to plant, what was poisonous, how to hunt, mid-wife and cure disease through myths and stories. Their moral instruction was also transmitted to memory by fables, stories, dance, poetry and theatrical performance. Epic poems were used to unite, inspire, and train warriors. Religious and spiritual beliefs were inculcated through story, ritual, rite and memorization of prayer.


Committing information to memory in oral cultures was a difficult and time consuming task. In spoken languages such as sanskrit multi-book volume length songs were committed to memory such as the sacred words of the Vedas. Individuals would often spend years of their lives using songs, poems, and myths as mnemonic devices to learn a trade and make the transition from apprentice to professional.


Oftentimes we find that the more silly the song or more outlandish the story the easier it is for our children to remember it, and commit its underlying lesson to memory. We also have found that rhythm, cadence, dance, pantomime and meter are excellent tools making memorization easier.


We find the same mnemonic techniques present in ancient, pre-literal and primitive societies. Dance, fantastic and theatrical presented stories and rhythmic poems often accompany and house the message to be learnt and committed to memory. This fact should make us wonder how much of the story is to help one commit the lesson to memory and how much of it is actual belief.


Living in a world full of tangible documentation it is hard for us to imagine the way the above techniques were used to transmit valuable information and commit it to memory. Due to this we often assume that the people believed in the content of the story as well as its message. While the truth of the matter is the mythic gods and heroes may have been more for effect than actual belief, just as our children can use fantasy and fantastic superheroes as a way of remembering without it being about actual belief.


Without many tangible means of documentation ancient man had to find ways of having things stand out so that they could be remembered. A father or grandfather was best remembered if he became a god or mythic hero. In an undocumented world there was a greater limit to what one could commit to memory and retain. 


One of the most standard means that has come down to us is the division between the sacred and the profane. That which was miraculous or sacred was far easier to remember for it stood out. People often identified thoughts and feelings they wanted to remember as “gifts from the gods”. While their were plenty of factors which probably played in ancients truly having a poor sense of an individual ego, they also found it easier to remember thoughts and feelings by making them sacred and beyond their day to day world. Earlier we mentioned the strong tie between time and memory, this is demonstrated by ancients man’s preference for sacred time and his reluctance to acknowledge chronological time. Yet, with no clocks or reliable means of tracking momentary historical time is it any wonder that his desire for memory found a home in sacred time?

Our road to recognizing and appreciating our sense of self is strongly tied to our ability to remember our individual experience and maintain our personal history. The passing centuries of improving and expanding our world of tangible documentation has solidified our sense of self and our ties to friends, family and contemporaries. 


Each step we make towards understanding ourselves increases our ability to understand others. Our personal memories and shared history can make our lives richer, fuller and more meaningful.

Jim Guido

Economics and Gender Issues and Government and Politics and Psychology and Relationships and Social Issues17 May 2013 03:03 pm

My dad came to the US from Italy when he was 13 years old. My mom was born in the US in a small Italian community which was where my dad’s family eventually settled. My mom’s parents married shortly after they had come to America and quickly started a family.

My dad, who was 13 years older than my mom, lasted less than a year in public schools and began working to help support the family when he was 14. My mom lasted into her freshman year of high school, but too, had to quit school to help support the family.

My dad was a firm believer in the idea of coming to America to “make a better life”. He, like many of contemporaries, felt that hard work and sacrifice were necessary to accomplish this goal. Living in the US was seen as an opportunity to escape the poverty that had dominated his family for generations in southern Italy. Success, for him, was being able to provide for his family so that they had food on the table and would not have to spend their waking hours worrying about basic safety and survival.

After my parents married they moved to a nearby factory town on the shores of Lake Michigan. My dad took pride on his working his way up from the railway yards to become a ticket agent at a train station. He talked of his being fortunate of no longer having to do “menial labor” nor having to work in the factories that dominated local employment.

In my early years I rarely saw my dad for he found it necessary to  have a second job to make sure we could not only survive, but save some money for the future. My dad got up at four in the morning,  got ready for work and returned home about 3 in the afternoon as we were coming home from school, we than would eat before 4 so that my dad could make the evening shift at some restaurant or at the new fast food establishments.

On the rare evening my dad was at home he would take his slide rule and racing form to the kitchen table and spend hours doing the research that went into his small wagers on the horses. On weekends we either went to relatives houses many of which still lived in the Italian community a half hour away, or some relative would come to our house. Larger family parties occurred regularly celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, holidays and church functions. On Sunday mornings we always went to church before seeing relatives for the remainder of the day.

The men in my hometown talked about work and factory life far more than any other topic. Even in family gathering it was unusual that someone didn’t vent a little frustration over their work situation, boss or the lack of security in their employment. 

Maybe it was just what we chose to watch, but the topic of labor and work even seemed to dominate the entertainment industry. I remember movies and plays which dealt with coal miners, factory workers, union strikes and the plight of failure and emptiness in characters such as Willie Loman in Death of a Salesman.

While Marx was not someone my blue collar world had read, people and TV often talked about feeling the “dehumanizing” role of factory work, or how mass production work was like living in a prison, or how insulting and degrading it was to have to kowtow to every boss or supervisor and how the work itself took away a man’s sense of dignity and self-respect. Even the popular comedies on TV made numerous jokes and references to the ever present possibility of being fired or laid off.

At a very early age I became highly fearful of ending up working in a factory, or being forced to engage in some labor of endless repetition. Even the professionals in town with careers or those in management positions seemed to be kowtowing to some boss and being tethered to a long and highly structured work week.  In my mind I began to equate work with a loss of freedom, autonomy and any hope of  a decent quality of life.

My mom had worked from the age of 15 until she got married in her late 20’s. She took pride in being a strong peasant woman and in the old world values of the immigrant mother’s she idolized. She liked the role of  mother and homemaker, and took a particular delight in cooking.

My mom’s life of a housekeeper mother was filled with menial labor and “drudgery”.  Yet, the ardor of her work load and the time required to complete a task seemed to lessen with each invention and advance in appliance technology. Going from washboard to wringer was not that drastic, but the jump to washing machine was dramatic and much appreciated. Even the advance in fabrics reduced ironing time. The list of appliances, technologies and “conveniences” which reduced housekeeping time and effort was expanding on a monthly basis. Even in lower middle class families such as ourselves the quality of life of the homemaker was improving greatly.

By the time I was four or five my mom was able to entertain herself with radio or TV while she tended to her household tasks and chores. She was able to take breaks to watch a favorite program or visit with a neighbor lady for an hour or so, and still get dinner on the table by 4.  My mom actually found enough “leisure” time to reengage in hobbies/crafts of her latter childhood such as embroidery and crocheting.

Most of her daytime TV was divided into two areas. One area of interest was quiz type of programs such as “Concentration” and the other were the emotional tearjerkers such as “Queen for a Day” or the “Millionaire”. 

While the advances in technology appeared to be a boon for the housekeeper, it did not seem to improve the quality of life for the factory worker. While advance in assembly line technology did reduce the physical demand on a worker, it also reduced the scope of their activity to one part or cog of a product. No longer could they even take pride in the completion of an entire product such as a clock, radio or car, but only in the installation of a front fender, minute hand, or some other part of the complete product.

While technology reduced the time it took to housekeep and the strain the tasks took on the body, in the factory it just increased production expectations and the fears that the technology would replace your need as a worker. Advances in technology made it possible for my dad’s work load to be decreased, and he could have theoretically played a radio while he worked. Yet, his “higher ups” sent out memo’s stating playing a radio would result in termination of employment, and the railroad found many new and additional tasks for him to perform to insure that he had no free time or that his work load was reduced in any fashion or form. To the contrary it seemed that each passing day my dad was required to do more, and be responsible for more, with no additional pay.

In general I found my mom’s life more tolerable than my dad’s. I found his perpetual working, subservience to bosses, and the lack of autonomy and development of outside interests to be boring at best and humiliating at worst. I could never reconcile my relatives story of my dad’s past with the dad I knew. The man who played trumpet, read philosophy, travelled the country, was an avid Ham operator, gambled, made his own sausage, cheese and wine, etc. was  nowhere to be seen. The last vestiges of that man were only seen at the rare moments he listened intently to the opera on the radio, or took time for himself to read reflective nonfiction.

The time I remember him being the most vibrant and alive was when I was 6 or 7 and his union went on strike. My dad become a leader of the workers at this time and set up camp at the downtown hotel in our town. He shined in the role of organizer, giving people instructions, speaking at meetings and being part of the negotiations with management. Though he was glad when the strike was over, I kind of missed the dynamic man who was my dad for a short time.

My dad’s sense of pride and self-esteem had him adopt the stay at home housewife preference. He felt it was his obligation and duty to be the “breadwinner” and that he would be a failure if his wife “had to work”. Yet, when I was 8 years old my mom decided that since all the kids (I was the youngest) were fairly self-sufficient that she wanted to do more to help make our family financially more comfortable. It took only a couple of weeks to convince my dad that she nor their friends would think she “had to work”, but that she just wanted a new challenge and it would allow my sister an opportunity to learn how to cook and manage a home.

My dad helped my mom get a job as a ticket agent at another station on the same line as my dad. She enjoyed the challenge and it gave them a shared interest which brought them closer together. Yet, it wasn’t long before the luster of the new job wore off, and my mom began to complain about the routine just like all the men. Yet, at the end of the day the sense of financial security she got from the job outweighed its deficits and she stayed on the job until about a year after she was robbed at gunpoint and never again felt safe at work.

By the time I got to high school I had made the following assessments of the world and lives of men and women.  I viewed being male as having almost no options and being destined to a laborious life spent in servitude, with little hope of privacy, autonomy or time for personal development. Most of the men I knew seemed empty, emotionally vacant and resentful. The boys my age were trying to sow a few wild oats before conforming to the fate of being male.

I did have some distant male relatives who lived in Italian communities or neighborhoods that seemed to truly enjoy their lives. They were artists, musicians, entrepreneurs (organized crime?), or individuals who somehow got by with minimal labor. They were fun loving, funny, emotional, and their lives seemed to be filled with meaningful relationships. Quality of life, joy and relationships were their priorities and they made you feel good just to be able to bask in their energy.

The Italian lover’s of life philosophy summed up by the colloquialism “dolce far niente”  (sweet idleness) was something that I harmonized with. Another version of this Italian art of living philosophy was offered by North Carolina State basketball coach Jim Valvano when after being diagnosed with cancer  said: “To me, there are three things we all should do every day…..You should laugh every day…You should spend time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears…If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special”…

The life of most of the adults I knew seemed hollow and meaningless. Life seemed too incredible and precious to me, to waste it in toil or mindless activity. Most men were doomed to an empty existence of endless labor, we had no choice in the matter. Women on the other hand were beginning to have options, my mom could work or stay at home. Technology and social change were opening a whole new world to women in which they began to talk of issues such as“quality of life”, “consciousness raising”, “intimacy” and the richness of human emotion and experience.

Just when I was beginning to feel that I would have little or no opportunity to lead a fulfilling and rich existence the women’s movement emerged as a beacon for a vision of living a quality life. While the majority of men were consigned to a life of labor and subjugation, a growing percentage of women were entering a new age of self-exploration and enlightenment.

I remember watching the Phil Donahue show and feeling a growing sense of hope and optimism. Women were leading a discussion on the direction of society. The gospel of the women’s movement seemed to be that men were leading an empty life of labor, ambition and the thirst for power, and that women were in danger of leading a “shallow” and “superficial” life filled with pettiness and gossip. Women were being called upon to join together in a quest for a fulfilling and meaningful life. A life of freedom, dignity, respect and personal development. 

The majority of my male friends in high school were either already becoming emotionally vacant and empty, or just partying until the music stopped. My female friends were more into self-disclosure and talking about their feelings. 

I became close to a small group of verbal guys who talked at length on science, philosophy and the future. I also found another mixed group of friends who talked about art, literature, music and social revolution. The majority of female friends I had, talked about relationships, human communication and the soap opera of adolescence. 

Though I sometimes found the conversation of my female friends to be petty or emotionally tedious it was far preferable to the alternative. I found myself introducing or advocating my female friends to become more engaged in the women’s movement and its basic philosophy.

Advances in technology were already showing that automation was the future, and that many factory jobs could be replaced by automated machines working faster and more efficiently than human workers. We already were showing signs of having too many workers for too few jobs, and that productivity goals could be met through less full time workers.

The women’s movement and pop psychology were informing us that “self-actualization” and “intimacy” were far more important than work/labor and making money. That, in fact, monetary ambition and long working hours were injurious to health, quality of life, and the development and maintenance of fulfilling friendships and enduring familial relationships.

Despite the murder of some very important leaders of social change much had been accomplished not only in the growth of the women’s movement, but civil rights, and the ecological and anti-war movements. Watchdog agencies, whistleblowers and journalists were exposing the corruption in government, business, medicine, finance, academia, the media and the military in a way that seemed to promise better management and accountability.

Human dignity and respect was on the rise for workers, women, minorities and students. Fear and hatred was being replaced by tolerance and understanding. The landing on the moon had been a sign that we can accomplish anything we commit ourselves to and that war, poverty, and world hunger were problems we could address and solve.

We are fond of saying that it is darkest before the dawn, yet one person’s dawn is another persons dusk. And just at the moment when I felt that the journey of self-actualization and quality of life was about to take flight, the forces of anger, control, hatred, and oppression seemed to silently turn us back towards the prison we just escaped.

Almost overnight the messages of personal development, quality of life, human intimacy, freedom and autonomy were being subtly modified and replaced with messages speaking of consumption, making money, and national and cultural superiority. 

The advertising and business world targeted minorities, women, and students as emerging lucrative consumer markets. Equating new found freedoms and social status with making money, consumption and having a new and expensive image. Drinking malt liquor and wearing specific clothes became synonymous with being a hip and successful black person. Virginia Slim’s proclaimed, “you’ve come a long way baby”, to hawk a product “designed for the modern woman”. 

Soon the women’s movement humanistic message of quality of life and intimacy became lost in the desire for equal pay and full employment. Entering the evil and destructive male dominated world of power, money, servitude and labor became the goal and battle cry of the movement. 

While I fully supported equality and rights for all, I felt stunned that the goal had now become for all to become slaves to money, labor and subjugation to corporate owners be they white male, female or minority. I personally cared little if the warden were black, white or female, I just wanted out of prison. My concern was in the quality of our lives and in our ability to create and sustain meaningful relationships and a societal respect for my and your privacy and autonomy.

Now forty years later I still have the same longings, desires and goals. I look back at the women’s movement like a photograph of an old girl friend who ended up sleeping with my old tormentor. We could have shared so much together, we could have had made the world an intimate caring place. Instead we now live in a society in which two paychecks don’t even have the purchasing power of one back in the 50’s or 60’s.  And where quality of life, life expectancy, health, happiness quotients, and leisure time have been on the decline and falling behind other more “socialistic” nations around the globe.

While I look back at what I experienced as a lost opportunity its hard not to be frightened by our surveillance society and the loss of all the freedoms and privacy we struggled to achieve and the fact that the only real growth industry left in our decayed capitalistic system of empire is fear mongering , prejudice and intolerance. 

Jim Guido

 

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