Social Issues


Ecology and Philosophy and Social Issues20 Apr 2016 09:28 am

Here are a few themes from early philosophy, science and religion which continue to influence our beliefs, attitudes and assumptions regarding truth, meaning and the nature of human existence.

Early philosophers such as Plato desired to anchor knowledge and meaning in the impermeable and eternal. While human experience was transitory and unstable ideas and concepts were true, fixed and universally valid. According to this view point ideas are real and valid while tangible objects are imperfect and relatively insignificant copies of reality.

The superiority of form and essence over the world of sensations and subjective perception was also found in the pure science of mathematics. Perfection, precision and universal law were revealed in the pure form of number and geometry. Certainty, truth, natural/universal law, and objective knowledge were attainable not through sensorial human experience but in revealing the underlying immutable form obtained through math.

All hard sciences from astronomy, to physics to medicine acquired objective knowledge and certainty in the realms of math and universal law which lay outside the subjective realms of sensation and perception. Truth, certainty and immutable fact were the sole property of pure form and essences garnered though math and objective experimentation, while human experience was deceptive at best if not entirely illusionary.

The belief that all human sensorial, emotional and perceptual experience was an illusion was fundamental to most spiritual practices such as Buddhism as well as a core tenet of the major salvation religions. All truth and certainty existed in the sacred and ideal space which lay underneath or beyond human experience. Pure knowledge, truth, certainty and universal law were acquired in the esoteric sacred worlds carved out by religion, philosophy and science.

Enlightenment, salvation and eternal life were attainable to only those brave, disciplined and clever enough to not become attached or deceived by the transitory sensorial world of mundane experience. The world of human experience was deemed an empty illusion bound to be dominated by physical and emotional pain and suffering haunted by the inevitability of death.

The denigration of human experience by making it an illusion, something to transcend or a necessary obstacle to gain access to truth, certainty and immortality carries with it many important ramifications and repercussions. The acquisition of certainty, truth and universal law through the creation of ideal and sacred space comes at a severe cost.

Through math and the scientific method we have satisfied our quest for certainty and truth by discovering and proving the immutable laws which govern our planet and the entire universe. These efficient laws of cause and effect determine that each and action and event have an opposite and equal reaction. So what might appear on the surface as novel or by chance is only an illusion fostered by our inability to see more than a sliver of reality. Yet, according to universal law there is no chance occurrence and every event is predetermined by the immutable laws of cause and effect.

When logically implemented this means that not only is every action I take just a link in the causal chain of the universe, but so is every thought I have or emotion that I experience since they are indeed events that occur inside of the universal frame work. In a world of universal law and cause and effect any perception of individual action, creation or choice is a complete subjective fiction.

The quest for certainty is just as strong in the realms of philosophy and religion as it is in the sciences. The idea of a perfect god or intelligent agent which created the universe is extremely common. It is the nature of a perfect god to create all that is good and perfect. Thus creation must to be perfect, immutable and follow a specific destiny.

It is, therefore, not surprising that most religions have the initial creation being perfect and ideal such as the garden of Eden. The one variable allowed in the realm of religion is that man was created with a free will. So while man was born in harmony with god, he had the ability think on his own. Yet, since god was all good the only way man was able to demonstrate his freedom was to willfully do other than god. Yet, if god is perfect any deviation from his ways would be imperfect and wrong and, therefore, a sin.

In essence the only way man could distinguish himself from god and exercise the gift of free will was to sin and be cast out of the perfect garden and live a live filled with suffering, pain and death. From that moment of original sin on, the entire goal of human existence was to try to seek god’s forgiveness and regain eternal life by subjugating himself to the will of god.

The quest for certainty, immortality and perfection is often born of man’s fear of death and the desire to escape pain and suffering. In philosophy and spirituality one is often guided to transcend the harsh reality of life and to take refuge into his underlying perfect essence. While one can’t prevent the body from pain, suffering and death one can transcend the illusion of the sensorial experience finding solace in enlightenment or place all their focus on their inner immutable and immortal essence, soul, mind or spirit.

While much of the above is no longer explicitly stated many of our beliefs, assumptions and attitudes towards ourselves and the world in general are highly influenced by the tacit vestiges of our need to find meaning in life through truth, certainty, and absolutes. Though for many of us human existence is no longer synonymous with pain and suffering, we still feel a need to find meaning and solace in transcendental realities and universal truths, which marginalize and often demonize our sensorial perceptual subjective experience.

No matter how comfortable and pleasurable our sensorial world, we still have a tendency to view it as an illusion or an empty seduction. The abstract immutable world of spirit, mind, consciousness and soul are still considered by most to be both separate from the body and immutable and immortal. This being the case we still place little value on the importance and significance of physical and sensorial pleasure, in comparison to that of ideals, beliefs, absolutes, concepts and transcendental realities.

This could at least partially explain why we show little regard for the physical, emotional, psychological welfare of those who do not believe as we do. The general disregard for the physical body also explains why we so readily pollute our water, air and land despite all the evidence of its harm on our health, quality of life and physical survival.

We are children of Plato when we revere and glorify ideas and abstract thought as more important and essential than the care and protection of the human body and all its sensorial experiences. Our obsession with mind, spirit and pure consciousness is very harmful when it is divorced from its connection to and dependence on the physical body.

An integrated view of human life finds joy and happiness in the perceptual, emotional, visceral and psychological realms of human experience. Rather than transcending the body we can delight in embracing our humanity. Rather than looking for immutable truth which renders life predestined and predetermined, we can enjoy the human potential to discover, invent, learn and process.

Eternal truth and universal law provide ultimate meaning and immortality at the expense of the value and richness of an individual whose choices and joys are truly real, valuable and self-determined. I do not find what is abstractly gained through Truth, Certainty and Universal Law to be greater than what it is lost by becoming a predestined creature whose every action is just the unfolding of a fated script written either by god’s will or the law of cause and effect.

The choice isn’t between Certainty and Chaos, or complete order and randomness. Our existence is an extremely nuanced blend of givens and possibilities. There are basic laws of nature expressed as limits and conditions such as my need for oxygen to breathe, or that I will die without food and water. We know that genetics as well as naturally occurring events can exert varying amounts of influence in our moment-to-moment thoughts, feelings and decisions.

Humanity’s current self-destructive path seems to be fueled by our blatant disregard of the importance, significance and beauty of sensorial/perceptual life. The more we accept the fact that matter matters, that our bodies and our environment are central to all our experiences of joy, pleasure, love and meaning, the more dedicated when can become to sustaining and improving the quality of life of all organic life.

Economics and Government and Politics and Social Issues13 Oct 2015 07:14 pm

Wealth is not so much about how much money and assets you have but rather how much money and assets you have in comparison to others. In essence, wealth is about how big of a piece of the pie you possess.

The recent money printing mania of central banks has deeply distorted our concept of wealth. Over the last decade or so the size of the pie (money pool) has quintupled yet the majority of people’s wages and assets have stagnated or have grown at a moderate pace.

What this means is that if you’re personal wealth hasn’t ballooned by 500% over the last decade your relative wealth has decreased. If your savings have stayed pretty much the same it means that you are 1/5 as wealthy as you were a decade ago. Actually if one figures in the rise in inflation of food, energy, medical care and other necessities your wealth has plummeted even if your numerical wealth has doubled or even tripled.

Economic data suggests that as many as 20% of US citizens were experiencing expanding relative wealth in the early 80’s. Those treading water or enjoying a larger share of the pie fell to under 10% within a decade. The next decade saw the percentage of people’s wealth increasing drop to 5% and then down to 2%. Since the last financial crisis in 2008, the percentage of people enjoying a boost in relative wealth has gone from the infamous “one percent” to a fraction approaching 1/10 of one percent.

So even in the glory days of the middle class well over 50% of US citizens were experiencing a decline in relative wealth. Yet, due to advances in medicine and technology statistics supported the idea that the US and European middle class were experiencing a rise in their quality of life.

The standard of living and quality of life of a sizable percentage of people can actually rise even while their relative wealth declines. This can occur due to substantial improvements in technology and medicine along with the empire sharing the spoils with its citizens. The US shared the wealth it obtained through global dominance with its allies and citizens. Consumer based capitalism rewarded its citizens and foreign backers and participants with increased access to its riches, even as the percentage of wealth continued to shift into fewer and fewer hands.

Yet, over the last couple of decades and especially since the last financial crisis the tendency for the US government and financial elite to share the bounty is on the decline. A consumer based society needed a sizable portion of the populace to participate as consumers and producers of goods and services and also to function as soldiers to insure the continued expansion of global domination (both militarily and economically).

Recent economic events and technological advances have now lessened the need for a sizable portion of US citizens to be consumers, producers and soldiers. Our vaunted consumer based society is now being replaced by a financial instrument economy. Please read my previous post http://guidoworld.com/blog/the-post-indu… to gain a better understanding of the logistics of this new economy and how it frees the financial elite from its dependency on US citizens for its continued progress and success.

The US’s position as the reigning superpower is dependent on its retaining its financial and military domination. Any set back in its relative wealth is a threat to its privileged and dominating position. The US cannot just maintain its wealth to insure its dominance, but it must continue to increase its market share and piece of the global economic pie. Any drop in the percentage of global wealth it experiences results in a loss of global dominance. Wherever money and asset ownership exists, the US “cannot afford” not to participate and be a leader.

In order to remain the dominant superpower our government and its patrons must do everything in their power to maximize profits. One does not maximize profits through just tolerating and taxing lucrative illegal or immoral practices and markets. In order to maximize profits it is logically necessary to not only participate and establish a presence in economic boons such as black market trade, but to establish and maintain a commanding position. Likewise, one does not remain the dominant economic superpower by refusing to participate in the largest and most lucrative industries and marketplaces due to ethics and morals.

When one’s goal is an ever increasing state of wealth through maximizing profits and increasing market share it becomes imperative that you maintain access to “free markets” and that you dominate all lucrative marketplaces available. The bulk of our military actions make sense when viewed from this perspective. We go to war, use economic sanctions and intervene in the political world of other nations (regime change) all in an effort to gain access to potentially lucrative resources and markets or to establish a dominant position in an industry.

So while we trumpeted our defense of democracy and values such as freedom, in reality our privileged position was acquired and is maintained by the expanding acquisition and ownership of assets, resources and money. Britain in its heyday did not shy away from admitting that it went to war with China over the free trade of opium as well as other producing promising great profits.

Modern empires have used piracy, bullying, intimidation, manipulation and deception in order to acquire and maintain the monopolization of assets and resources. Nations which refused to participate were demonized, punished and often vanquished, whatever it took to increase market share and profits. The US has not deviated from this game plan, even if they try to hide this reality. When US leaders speak of taking aggressive actions against other nations to protect US interests, stakes and way of life it is far more accurate than when they say they are defending freedom and democracy. Unless, of course, they are referring to the freedom of gaining access and control of the assets and resources of others and that when they say democracy they mean capitalism (as our way of life).

We have generally opposed anyone who refused to participate in our exploitive profit based global economy or who wished to share the wealth with its citizenry. We labeled and demonized anyone behaving in this way as being a communist, socialist, terrorist, or as an evil and destructive zealot. A nation who nationalized its oil or attempted to use its resources to benefit its citizens while isolating itself from the US was sure to be invaded, attacked, have its government removed or have their assets frozen and be saddled with economic sanctions.

In general there are two basic national or cultural camps which resist or refuse to participate in “our (capitalistic) way of life” or prevent us from gaining access to their assets and resources. One camp would include any society promoting an egalitarianism such as socialists and communists. The second camp would be those who object to capitalism because of core values such as conservative religions and social activists. Most major religions have basic tenets which promote charity, succor and support to the less fortunate and are generally intolerant of exploitive and selfish economic practices. The very same practices which are often viewed as being inherent in the capitalistic free market system. A subset of these two camps would include entities such as human rights organizations, workers unions, and ecological watchdogs.

Luckily for the US many communists nations went the route of totalitarianism or were able to be guided in that direction which validated our aggressive actions as well as our claims of their being evil and our intentions as being noble. Yet, the social benefits of revolutionaries of the people such as Castro, Chavez and Gaddafi had to be ignored and vilified. Statistics which show great strides made in health care, education, access to technology, quality of life and quality of life are ignored, denied or described as meaningless is comparison to the suffering supposedly caused by these “evil tyrants”. Likewise the leaders of passive resistance and their themes of charity and non exploitation were undermined and labeled terrorists by our government (at least internally). This list would include Mandela, Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King as well as many prominent women’s rights and peace advocates.

We have forced our way into every marketplace and resource. Where ever money is made we are there, and we must gain monetary control. We can’t let our morals, ideals and principles be our undoing. While we may deny it, more and more people accept the fact that we go to war to maintain our economic leadership in oil, natural gas and other vital and profitable areas regarding energy. Yet, how long would we stay the economic superpower if our morality and principles prevented us from the billions of dollars available through the selling of munitions, illegal arms and weapons of mass destruction.

Communist nations are by definition opposed to profit based capitalism. So, when a nation becomes communistic or socialistic they no longer conduct themselves in a manner befitting global trade maximizing profit. The US reacts to this non participation aggressively and will go to war, support a coup or try to assassinate leaders who are deemed responsible for this unacceptable economic stance.

Yet, China is currently an example of how even a communist nation can be acceptable to us as long as they keep the channels of commerce open and allow us to exploit their riches in an expanding fashion. Tensions arise whenever China makes a policy decision which jeopardizes are financial role or shows any signs of hoarding their wealth or resources.

During its heyday Britain could not pass on the opportunity to dominate the opium trade. Its status as reigning empire necessitated its gaining access and control of the opium trade. When China successfully intervened and squashed the drug trade and addiction rate in its country, Britain felt it war worthy to reestablish the opium trade.

Just as Britain went to war for opium, the reasons behind our wars and military interventions are economic in origin. As mentioned above, our position as global superpower is dependent on not only maintaining but increasing our market share and piece of the global economic pie. Wherever a sizable market exists we must not only participate in it, but be an increasingly major player.

Vietnam and the surrounding area was known as the “golden triangle” and was responsible for much of the global production of heroin and other illegal “recreational” drugs. When the communists took over the flow of drugs began to slow down, and moral and health concerns became more important than economic ones. The US war in Vietnam succeeded in reestablishing the global drug trade. So, from a strictly economic standpoint the war in Vietnam was a success.

It is fascinating to note that the two longest wars for the US, that being Vietnam and Afghanistan are both illegal drug havens. Over 90% of poppy production evaporated when the Taliban took over and gained control of the land. As soon as the US got involved the poppy production not only returned but went to record levels. The charts of US military presence in Afghanistan and poppy production appear to be the same. Whenever our presence increases so does poppy production and global heroin trade, and when we leave or lose territory to the Taliban the production is curtailed.

While both Vietnam and Afghanistan could just be coincidences it does seem unlikely. We are a capitalistic society that values money, wealth and power over everything else. It is only logical that our policies and behaviors would correspond to this paramount concern. If we didn’t act in this manner than what other explanation is there for how we successfully maintain and increase our economic position. Someone is making the billions of dollars available through illegal drugs, munitions, armaments, pharmaceuticals, tobacco, gambling, prostitution, human slave trade, ecologically destructive practices, etc. and if the US government and its corporate sponsors aren’t leading the way then how do we remain the world economic power?

One only need to look at how we have exploited Central America and “banana republics” to get a picture of how important it is to the US to become and stay dominant in every market place and economic space. I saw an article recently that went through every war the US has participated in since its inception. As it turns out we have been involved in a military conflict or war in over 93% of the time we have been a nation. We have initiated the vast majority of these wars and conflicts.

The above statistic clears demonstrates that the US is more than willing to go to war to “protect our interests”, or to provide us access to and control of global assets. Yet, war is not the only means by which the US accomplishes these goals. Another fruitful means has been through the installation of trading agreements and international pacts of commerce. Agreements such as NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) have been very effective in terms of protecting the rights of major corporations and industries such as banking, pharmaceutical, insurance and oil while expanding their access to foreign markets and assets.

Another tool has been to provide monies in loans and aid to foreign nations in exchange for establishing a military presence and gaining access to industries. Oftentimes the debt on the substantial loans given to nations become unserviceable resulting in our government and corporations gaining ownership of assets in exchange for forgiveness of debt. Many of the US’s most dominant positions have been forged through this method. The US gains ownership of foreign land, oil, coffee, plantations, gold, diamonds and many other lucrative markets via the exchange of assets for debt. Recently the EU took ownership of many of Greece’s assets and land in this same way of debt forgiveness.

While the practice of overwhelming a nation with debt could be just financial incompetence by bodies such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank its frequency and obvious benefits to the goal of maximizing profits suggest otherwise. As early as 2002 I started to become concerned that the methods of confiscating assets through the creation of unserviceable debt had become a domestic issue with the US middle class being the target audience. The quick growth in credit card, mortgage and student debt of the average US citizen was becoming large and conspicuous. Loans were being given out at an alarming rate, and from my seat a good portion seemed unserviceable or very vulnerable to an economic downturn (such as the housing bubble).

Please click on the following link to read my thoughts on this perspective which I published in August of 2008 http://guidoworld.com/blog/the-debt-endg…. This concern of mine has only grown and been validated through the passage of time. It only makes sense that the US government and its benefactors need for increased wealth and market share would finally demand their being predatory and confiscate what little wealth remains in the hands of its citizens. This blog along with the previous link above regarding the post industrial financial economy present a rather succinct outline of what might be in store for the US middle class, as well as the middle class in most post industrial societies.

The EU’s growing practice of negative interest rates and buy ins, as well as increased discussion regarding the need to construct a cashless society fit well into this unsavory vision of the immanent future (demise?) of the middle class. While the situation is far from hopeless one can’t solve a problem that one doesn’t recognize.

While writing this I agonized on how to present the above information in a manner which wouldn’t quickly be rejected by those on the right or the left, or thought of as just being a paranoid rant and over reactionary. Yet, I doubt if that is possible. I hope that those of you have shown the openness to read this to its conclusion have found the logic sound and the topic provocative.

United in Compassion

Jim Guido

Economics and Government and Politics and Social Issues16 Jul 2015 02:22 pm

While greed and deception are accepted as practical business skills needed when one’s goal is to maximize profits, the majority of the populace feels that corporations and governments minimize these practices when it comes to advocating for the welfare of their citizens. There are those that understand that the profit of the few often comes at the expense of the many. Such individuals reach the logical conclusion that decisions made by governments are almost always based on pragmatic financial outcomes and seldom honor any ideals or concerns such as democracy, freedom or the quality of life of the masses. Those who do not expect the financial and political elite to sacrifice personal and national monetary wealth for the benefits of the general populace are generally considered cynical at best and more routinely labeled conspiracists.

Yet, the ability of the US to maintain its position of economic superiority would be difficult to accomplish if it spread the wealth around or had noble principles guide its actions. In order to remain the wealthiest and most prosperous nation on earth, they must make money wherever and however it is made.

The European Union, like all relatively sovereign entities, is struggling to keep from being entirely swallowed up by the US, or losing ground against the remaining competitors and major players in world finance.

Please read the link below for it is a rare and real look into the inner workings of international finance. It is a rather transparent peek behind the curtain of economic policy and its priorities. It shows how often the bullies of power force the vanquished into looking like the bad guys or to take credit for a heinous or unpopular position.

The attitude of the text and the annotated comments of the ex Greek finance minister depict a mandatory consensus, in which the people calling the shots demand those being bullied to agree to take full responsibility for the very actions they are opposed to implementing. Any mention of their concerns or the fact that they are not really the people implementing the harsh and unpopular measures would be considered a violation of the agreement and cause for additional and hasher measures to be taken. If the Greek government wants to be part of the European Union they must not only implement policies and measures which not only increase their debt problems and worsen unemployment and poverty, but they must speak and act as if it were their idea.

I am amazed at the level of care that the leaders of the European Union (namely Germany) put into the words they chose which artfully misrepresent their selfish and malevolent intentions. The only people who benefit from these measures are the creditors of the debt. The majority of which should not have purchased bonds since they were aware that the debt could never be paid off. The world would be quite a different place if our leaders put as much care and attention into working on our behalf, rather than trying to figure out ways to deceive and placate us.

In the modern world of politics consensus is acquired through those in power stubbornly dictating the terms forcing all others to quietly acquiesce or become an accomplice to their exploitative and inhumane policies and behavior.
A system that tolerates, encourages and at times even glorifies mechanisms of deceit and exploitation will always perform better and defeat systems that are fair, equitable and humane.

A person could always win the race when they are able to cheat and disable their competitors. A runner allowed to get a head start, take short cuts and have accomplices kick and grab the other runners could easily claim superiority. With this in mind it is easy to understand how a profit at all costs system of capitalism is able to “outperform” all other social systems.

 http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-07-15…

Those who most benefit from the predatory system of competition and profit have convinced people that no other system would cultivate and utilize technology and the creative energies of man, despite the fact that there is ample evidence to the contrary. We do know that this system creates economic imbalances, is dependent on waste, and is rather blind to any long term variable producing harm. As we mentioned earlier, when one’s primary goal and concern is maximizing profit all other concerns take a back seat.

Documents which are designed to benefit the few by extricating the remaining wealth of the many are being written and made into law quite frequently. Excusing debt by taking over ownership of assets is the very definition of loan sharking, and has been a staple of greedy governments, individuals and institutions for centuries. The most admirable moments of human history have been when the masses have demanded that the quality of life and the standard of living for the many takes precedent over the greed and self-agrandizement of the few.

Jim Guido

Economics and Government and Politics and Social Issues15 Jul 2015 06:34 pm

The US continues to be the poster child for a profit based health care system. In such a system a person’s health takes a back seat to concerns regarding the bottom line. In fact, a healthy client often limits the ability for vested parties such as doctors, hospitals and insurance and pharmaceutical companies from making a profit. While “wellness” visits do generate a bit of income, the real money in a profit based system is made in the following ways:

Tests
Surgeries and procedures
Hospital Stays and emergency room visits
Prescriptions and medicines

Since the US is the most profit based health care system in the world, it is not surprising that we also lead the world in all four of the above services and interventions. Many tests, surgeries and procedures, hospital stays and medications are over used and misused. So while many people’s lives are prolonged and their quality of life improved by US medical care, these interventions are also a leading cause of death in the US.

Unnecessary tests and surgeries can often result in complications, harms and even death. Prescription medications and procedures are notorious for having deleterious and serious “side effects” which occur with a frequency superior to its resulting in a cure.

Doctors run tests on many ostensibly healthy patients in order to be “proactive” and possibly catch a serious disease such as cancer which has yet to manifest itself. Yet, many of the most popular tests used are often ineffective in their goal, while in some cases causing problems which would not have occurred otherwise.

The US profit based health care system is excellent for those who have serious and life threatening conditions, but can be extremely harmful to those who are generally healthy. A healthy patient who only goes to the doctor when ill, or for a physical every year or two is a drain on the profits of our health care system.

The health care system has a vested interest in making sure that tests and patient interviews reveal potential reasons for some lucrative or frequently reoccurring intervention to be administered. The pharmaceutical industry has made it near impossible for a citizen of the US to go through their lives without the need to take medications on a frequent basis.

The result of this obsession with making health care as profitable as possible is that Americans are the most medicated and over diagnosed populace. They have longer and more frequent hospital stays where exposure to drug resistant germs can result in serious illness and/or death. They are also badgered and bullied by an increasingly predatory health care system and threatened to be dropped by insurance providers if they resist to subject themselves to often unnecessary and potentially harmful tests and procedures whose sole goal is to detect the need for more tests or the ostensible existence of a serious illness such as cancer needing immediate and expensive attention.

The US health care system deserves a great deal of admiration for their ability to save those in the most dire of situations. Many grateful people owe their life and quality of life to their doctors and the modern technology it employs. Yet, many other people’s lives have been destroyed or prematurely terminated due to the health care system’s zealousness to generate substantial profits.

Statistics do not support the US health care systems boasts of being the best in the world. Other nations provide excellent health care at a fraction of the cost, and do not have any where near as many problems with drug resistant germs, life threatening side effects, and sizable portions of the populace incapable of receiving services. Our profit based health care system continues to plummet in its global standing in a number of important areas.

While the US probably leads the world in inaccurately representing its global standing in the realm of health care, its actual standing is falling preceptively on almost a yearly basis. The latest stats I’ve seen now ranks the US thirty-seventh in the world in terms of life expectancy and does not fare any better in terms of statistics geared to calculate quality of life from a health perspective.

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.

Government and Music and Philosophy and Poetry and Politics and Social Issues03 Aug 2014 10:54 am

The following is the lyrics and reverie for Deus Ex Machina a song of mine which will be released as a track on the album I’m Just Saying later this week.

Deus Ex Machina

Deus ex Machina is literally “the god machine”. In ancient Greek tragedies it was a device used at the end of the play to save the day through divine intervention to extricate the lead characters from sure and utter ruin.

In this song a strong proud woman is counseled to remain patient despite the fact that the speed of life is seemingly careening out of control. The counsel of her contemporaries seem to suggest that she should take solace in her beliefs and that soon her prayers will be answered by a last minute appearance of the god machine. We moderns are likewise being asked to trust that through our faith in religion, spirituality, technology or science will be plucked out of the immanent disaster our current path seems to be on.

In the late 60’s Buckminster Fuller published a book entitled Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth. The book focused on how the earth is essentially a huge spaceship with a limited amount of resources which cannot be resupplied. All of the life on this self-contained ship traveling through space is fragile and mutually dependent on each other for its continued survival.

Our blatant over use of finite resources such as oil, and our continual polluting of our air and water since his book was released bear comparison to the way the characters in the old greek plays ignored the prophesies of the savants in the tragedies. Our foolhardiness becomes even more obvious when we take the analogy between the earth and a giant space ship a little further.

Imagine the fate of the Star Ship Enterprise or some other city sized spaceship, if they allowed their water and air supply to be polluted and toxic. In addition, imagine the repercussions if they routinely had battles between different sectors of the ship in which passengers were killed and their living environment (hardware) were destroyed. How long would the voyage last?

The interdependence of organic and sentient life is a functional and practical reality, while our concepts of nation, political ideology, belief and judgment are relatively arbitrary. Without trees we could not breathe, nor could our bodies function and survive without germs and bacteria. The kill of be killed philosophy which dominates our modern world view is misguided and untenable. Strategies of how to coexist should not be relegated to the realm of utopia or idealism, for they are essential to our continual survival.

Words of hope, promise, and national or ethnic superiority pale in comparison to the importance of actions which increase the quality of life for all the inhabitants of space ship earth. The earth is a lush and vibrant planet due more to the ability of organic life to cooperate, adapt, harmonize and thrive than for its ability for individual organisms to defeat and destroy other organisms. While each individual organism must eat or perish, they also depend on the overall health and expansion of all life on the planet for their continued existence.

People turn a blind eye to the atrocities done in their name, or even defend, justify and support the actions of governments which are destroying people and nature. We are endangered by nuclear warheads and accidents, the degradation and increased toxicity of our water and air, the destruction of arable land and the overuse of non replenish-able resources. The earths growing population and advances in technology have created the opportunity for us to have killed and caused more human suffering than any previous empire on earth. We have killed millions upon millions of innocents under the ironic and absurd pretext of giving people their freedom.

So should we be like the ancient Greeks and still pin our hopes on divine intervention or the eleventh hour appearance of a god machine?

The earth has successfully dealt with every crisis it has faced. Despite the fact that life has always been fragile and survival has always been a reality, life on our planet has not only persisted but flourished. The earth is the only blue/green planet that our science has been able to find, so our planet had to do something right in order to create and support organic life. All we have to do is tap into and continue the tradition of our flourishing planet.

Deus Ex Machina

Deluge of broken comedies, the joker licks the steam
Laura struggles to make it better puts her pride in relief
The treadmill keeps moving faster all is on the increase
Before you slip into the chasm enter the god machine

Keep your toes on the line don’t trip on that line, trip on that line
Your hopes are in the future, so they tell you, so they tell you
So they tell you, so they sell you all will be improve a little later
Running cold, running bold, running blind, can you set the pace?

Lunge onward in darkness blindfolded by the mask of innocence
Walk softly pretty lady have faith in the guiding hand
Take a sleep on stony ground, not much you can do with this land
Listen safe to the deep voice that tells you what lies below

It’s cold, so cold and shady but a few yards yonder lies a brook
You can rest there for awhile, rest there lover
All looks so bleak, the edge of defeat, have faith in some alien god machine
Kiss the treasure the golden dream for here comes the god machine

Adorable god of fortune is late upon the scene
Make me shiver in wonder of your awesome majesty
Pluck us from the danger, the climactic deed
If you’re made of plaster what awaits sweet destiny?

Golden idol of reason celestial or divine
Save us at eleven before our last midnight
All looks so bleak, the edge of defeat, have faith in some alien god machine
Kiss the treasure the golden dream for here comes the god machine
Deus ex machina
Enter the god machine
Deus ex machina

Economics and Government and Social Issues23 Jun 2014 03:07 pm

Since our global community seems to be moving in the direction of increased wealth and power going into fewer and fewer hands it is logical to conclude that there is a diminishing inner core of power lords disseminated about the planet.

If you were to teach a course on how to become a power lord or power broker, what would you advise? If we were to devise the typical or ideal personality profile what would it look like? While such an investigation could be quite elaborate and lengthy, we’ll offer some initial logical assumptions regarding the basic personality structure of your typical power lord.

Since power and wealth are the goal of many extremely competitive and ambitious individuals it is highly unlikely that a person lacking in these qualities would rise to the top of the power lord world, especially considering that our basic economic structures promote and reward selfishness, obsessiveness and hyper competitiveness.

It would seem safe to assume that empathy and compassion would be obstacles to the sort of self-aggrandizement and single mindedness it takes in order to rise to the top in the worlds of wealth and power. A person who is compassionate or egalitarian by nature would not be able nor willing to compete in the winner takes all manner that is the way of the most ambitious in the realms of wealth and power.

I think it would be safe to say that one doesn’t become or remain a power lord without an insatiable thirst for wealth and power. The key world here is insatiable. If one wishes to be a power lord there is no end point to their ambition. If there is, they will be defeated or replaced by someone who is more devoted to the task at hand.

The goal of the aspiring power lord is to win the moment. In almost each and every transaction and interaction they must come out the victor. In every defeat they are put at a greater disadvantage to their fellow competitors.

While strategy and planning are important and beneficial towards winning and staying on top, most power lords would have to be acutely aware that projections and predictions inherent in planning become less accurate in larger and larger time frames. Couple this with the uselessness of long term plans if you continue to lose in the present and this creates a very utilitarian obsession with the present.

In other words power lords by necessity of the dynamics of competition always have to remain relatively short sighted. Continued success often depends on their ability to access the necessary resources, technology and legal clout in order to deal with problems that arise. They have a utilitarian faith in progress and invention and can often point out how their critics and those predicting the end of the world have been wrong for generations and that the pragmatic optimism in “where there’s a will there’s a way” has served them well.

The irony for the aspiring power lord is that while they are playing an economic and political game of musical chairs in which they must be they last person seated, they also are dependent on business alliances and the general trust and support and trust of the general populace.

This basic fact of their dependency on the trust and support of others necessitates that they must hide their end goals from everyone, in some cases even from themselves. If not the top tier, at least the higher tiers in the race for wealth and power must be populated by con men and sociopaths. Even an obviously power grabbing dictator is dependent on an inner circle of compatriots that trust and believe that their loyalty and efforts will result in their sharing in the spoils.

The goal of power and wealth seems to require a very utilitarian view of others as a means to an end. Competition on this grand of a scale would make any genuine humanitarian feeling or bond with others a weakness supplying your adversaries with the means to defeat you. If the goal is defeating everyone to become the defending champion of ultimate wealth and power, then how can you be anything but cold and alone? The logical conclusion for the power lord is that success, wealth and power are their only remaining companions.

As far as we can tell their still is a community of power lords and a champion has not been declared. This could signal that at some point even the most ambitious and successful power lords find a need for friends and allies, or it could mean that the game still has farther to go.

One might conclude from the logic of the above discussion that I am a pessimist or feel that power lords are inevitable and the lot of the general populace are to be pawns at best and victims and casualties at worse. While ambitious and selfish people always have and most likely will exist, I feel that our current economic and political structures are custom made for power lords to exist and thrive.

The so called “capitalistic meritocracy” that we live in, is a paradise for sociopathic con men, selfish obsessive personalties, pirates, and all out exploiters. We could just as easily construct a society that rewards genuine humanitarianism, compassion and egalitarianism.

As Plato observed: “Power should be confined to those who are not in love with it.”

Our capitalistic economy fosters a sense of lack, a need to fill oneself through consuming. Business success often depends on convincing people that they need a product, that their lives will be less than if they do not make the purchase. Doesn’t this business reality make salesman into con man and exploiters of others? It seems probable if not inevitable that such logic fosters exaggeration, deception and misrepresentation?

It is relatively easy to be successful selling a product that is addictive, it literally sells itself. Is it then not logical that exploiting peoples addictions, compulsions and weaknesses becomes part and parcel of a lot of commerce?

The biggest and most deceiving sell job is that this system of exploitation and economic opportunism is both necessary and at the very core of progress. We are told that without economic competition and equality our quality of life would plummet.

The discontented currently rule the world, they are the power lords. They shape and control the message, and have the majority of people accept their lies and personally convenient world view. Here are the lyrics to a song of mine which are pertinent to this discussion.

The Discontented Rule the World                                                       8/31/13

A contented man seldom worries
A contented man does not hate
A contented woman needs no ambition
A contented woman is able to wait

The Discontended Rule the World

The contended man savors conversation
The contended man enjoys the day
The contented woman is open to pleasure
The contented woman finds joy in play

The discontented rule the world
The discontented abuse the world
The discontented cause us pain
The discontented mock the sane

My contentment nestled in delight
My contentment welling up inside
My contentment whispered in my sigh
My contentment permeates my life

The discontented are always plotting
contesting, battlings and forever defeating
The discontented are not to be trusted
they’ll never own enough even when you’re busted

The discontented rule the world
The discontented abuse the world
The contented have no urge to rule

______________________________________________

I’d like to expand on the last line of the song. While contented people likely have no need to rule over others, they often do enjoy serving and helping others. If our society was structured in a more compassionate and life enhancing manner than those elected would fulfill the role we originally envisioned for them. Elected officials could behave and aspire to truly be “public servants”. The current goals of capitalism make a mockery of the ideals of democracy.

I find it intriguing how often we view some of the most powerful and wealthy people on the planet as being incompetent and powerless. We invest these people with the purest of intentions and judge the success of their actions by these supposed goals and values.

While the actions of the president, congress and federal reserve almost always benefit the interests of the few or support the agenda of ruthless power, we view them as incompetent or failing to fulfill their objective to represent our interests. While almost every action of our government is most easily explained as successfully protecting the interests of the elite and the empire, we instead think that they have bungled their attempts to spread democracy and freedom throughout the world.

The actions of the federal reserve are easily viewed as consistent and successful when you evaluate their actions as a private banking cartel looking to maximize their profits and those of their associates rather than their attempting to mange inflation, boost the economy or assist the job market. Yet, despite these glaring contradictions we would rather view these highly intelligent, successful and powerful people as out of touch or misguided. We may insult their abilities, but we never question their intentions.

While one may conclude that I am not a big fan of the actions and goals of the power elite, I think the discussion above demonstrates that they are very gifted and dedicated people. They are in the position they are in because they are sophisticated and talented enough to know how to win and be successful. Their apparent failure and struggles of meeting their goals is very inconsistent with their nature and history. It is more probable that they are acting as con men getting us to believe or invest in them values and goals which are inaccurate, and they instead (the president, federal government, central bankers, and economic elite) are successfully fulfilling their actual goals.

I find this same mechanism present with a few of our more famous philanthropists. I’m not saying that philanthropy does not exist, but that sometimes people who claim to be philanthropist are power lords in sheep’s clothing. When a multi-billionaire claims to be giving back to the people through charity and works to improve the quality of life of those around the globe, but their net worth continues to expand, than that sounds more like a savvy investor and not a philanthropist.

A person who is doing charity and giving away millions and maybe even billions of dollars, while technically retired, should not be increasing their net worth. Investing is the very mechanism of giving away your money to a cause or venture which will give you a positive return on your money. If a power lord does this and calls this philanthropy it is essentially a PR maneuver or a means of taking advantage of tax breaks and other political channels allowing them access to a market that would not otherwise be able to profit from.

While it may be true that the discontent rule the world, it is only with our tacit acceptance and support. The first step towards improvement would likely involve our restructuring society in a more humanistic manner (not as hard as they would like you to believe), and for us to stop revering and trusting the very people who are ignoring and injuring our best interests. Jim Guido

Government and Politics and Social Issues18 Apr 2014 02:03 pm

The desire to be free and the need to protect our freedom has been a declared hallmark of modern civilized societies for the last several centuries. Personal liberty and one’s reputation are valued as rights to be earned through honoring the social contract. In fact in most societies the government’s main purpose is to insure that the freedoms of law abiding individuals are protected and insured. The phrase “give me liberty or give me death” attributed to Patrick Henry became a truism of the American culture. Imprisonment and slavery have replaced exile as the harshest punishment short of death that a society can inflict upon an individual.

You would expect and assume that a society that places such a high value on freedom would make every effort to insure that someone’s freedom was not taken from them unnecessarily or unjustly. You would think the act of terminating one’s freedom would be done as a last resort and only after every other alternative had been exhausted. Surely you would think that every effort and precaution would be taken to insure that a person would not falsely or mistakenly have their freedom taken from them. While all the sentiments regarding the essential primacy of freedom are ideals of our judicial system, its basic structure and functioning tell quite a different story.

Yet, while being judged by a jury of your peers and having witnesses take an oath to “tell the truth and nothing but the truth” seems like a good start, the very trial process is littered with obstacles and priorities which make truth and justice fairly inconsequential. In the majority of situations witnesses are asked yes and no questions which are designed to only yield the aspects of fact and truth which support the lawyers agenda. Any attempt by a witness to actually tell the whole truth is suppressed and redirected and if the witness persists in attempting to give a full and balanced reply to the question they could be held in contempt for “refusing to answer the question”.

In fact, one could say, that in a trial truth is a commodity used and exploited in the name of the higher purpose of the attorneys and that is to win the case. While witnesses take an oath to honesty, lawyers do not. Their ethic and currency is not truth, but on presenting the best and most biased case possible to support the portrayal of events in the way they want them to be viewed.

In the case of wrongful harm such as theft, assault or such the best interest of the victim would be to have the perpetrator imprisoned, rehabilitated and restitution extracted from him whenever possible. Yet, the prosecutor’s main goal is not to identify the true perpetrator and bring him to trial, but only to prosecute the man who for whatever reason stands accused.

Our system does not foster a true dedication towards finding out the truth, neither does it truly protect nor insure one’s freedom. Instead, the trial process is a contest between two opposing sides in which lawyers use all devices at their disposal to have their side win. Witnesses are asked questions in ways which emphasize desired perceptions and trigger emotional biases in jurors to carry the day.

Our system of justice seems rather callous when you think of what is at stake. When a person’s freedom and long term reputation hang in the balance you would think we could gear our judicial practices less towards winning and more towards discovering whether someone acted in a way deserving of the loss of their freedom.

A great deal of a trial lawyers education and ongoing professional instruction centers around the science of how to convince and influence jurors. Lawyers make a science out of how to speak, make references and influence jurors in subliminal and unconscious manners in order to get their support with no inherent regard to the actual innocence or guilt of the person accused. Making and winning a case, not attaining the truth, is the order of the day.

While the truth is often difficult and sometimes impossible to ascertain, considering what’s at stake, we should make every conceivable effort and devote the bulk of the trial process to arrive at certainty. In those cases where certainty is unattainable than and a person’s freedom should not be taken away.

What then would a judicial process dedicated to the truth look like? It would involve all parties working together to find out the truth and then after the truth has been discovered they the prosecution and defense could present the mitigating, heinous or chronic circumstances which help judge and jurors determine the best course of action.

Our economic system is structured in competition where distortion, exaggeration and biased perspective are somewhat indigenous to sales and commerce. The more pervasive our market based brand of capitalism is in our lives, the more dishonesty and deception become interwoven into our moment to moment experience.

The techniques of misrepresentation, exaggeration and deception have seeped out of commerce and have invaded our social, political and even spiritual existences. Yet, even if we were to find sufficient reason to continue to misrepresent, deceive and exploit in other aspects of social economic interaction, we should make truth and honesty foremost when it directly impacts one’s very freedom and the carrying out of justice.

Considering what’s at stake serving as a juror should be a treated as a solemn and venerable responsibility. Our civic courses should include instruction on the meaning and duty of serving as a juror. If we truly wanted jurors to appreciate the gravity and importance of the task at hand, they should be well compensated for their time serving. Currently, a sizable portion of the populace try to avoid doing jury duty and view it as a nuisance. It is the rare person who equates the preserving of the ideal of freedom and justice with the process of serving on a jury.

We still pose ourselves internationally as a beacon of freedom and justice.  In fact our government feels it is our moral duty to meddle, intervene and when possible alter the “immoral” and “unjust” practices, governments and leaders of nations throughout the globe. The fact that our nation finds it necessary to imprison the highest percentage of its citizens than any other nation on the planet does not strike them as odd or hypocritical. Yet, if we are such a moral and free society, than how we can  justify a system that removes the freedom of so many of its citizens. Are we more immoral than others? Or do other nations such as our European allies just let 9 times as more dangerous and immoral criminals undeserving of freedom to roam their streets and work in their businesses?

While this tendency of ours to jail segments of our population, especially minorities and the poor, at a high percentage has been going on for decades we could point out one disturbing dynamic. We mentioned above the dangers of having our system of justice and with it people’s very freedom being dependent on economic competitive factors which supplant truth and justice as the primary concern. Over the last few decades the trend towards privatization of prisons has grown considerably. In order for these prisons to succeed and make a profit they need to retain a rather high occupancy rate, which means they will not be able to survive unless our conviction and imprisonment rate stays high if not continue to increase.

While there are literally hundreds of fine articles discussing the increased role and function of privately owned prisons and their impact on the job market and its impact on our justice system you could start with the following as an introduction: Privatization of the US Prison System

The damages done to lives by white color crime while at least as significant as those caused by poor substance users or petty thieves, yet the percentage of people who go to jail for breaking laws which destroy people’s financial and practical existences is disproportionately low, and in some cases such as banking fraud almost nil. Our system of justice seems to value the freedom of the wealthy, regardless of the severity of their harm, to the freedom of the poor or minorities. While we officially ended slavery long ago, some would make the case that our prisons have done a rather decent job of continuing the actual practice of slavery by taking away the freedoms of minorities through imbalanced incarceration.

While this possibility is worthy of discussion it is not the central issue of this post which is just the relatively flippant way our society through its competitive trial system treats the reality of human freedom. I personally find it very disturbing when the main goal of a trial isn’t the truth regarding the innocence or guilt of the accused, but in the winning of a case by the prosecution or a defense attorney. As mentioned before certainty and truth are not always attainable, but we should at least devise a system which is devoted to and maximizes all energies towards the uncovering of as much fact and truth as possible. Personal freedom and social justice truly deserve our finest efforts, and should not be reduced to possible outcomes of a system of justice built on personal competition between lawyers measuring their success through winning cases even when the odds and facts are not in their favor.

Jim Guido

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

« Previous PageNext Page »