Our Dystopian Reality – A Few Examples

There’s a story I tell on tours when I show people the tsunami warning sirens around the island of Oahu. They are the big air raid speakers on high poles posted around the island of Oahu. The story goes like this…back when the state first installed the syetem, they did a test siren to see … Continue reading “Our Dystopian Reality – A Few Examples”

There’s a story I tell on tours when I show people the tsunami warning sirens around the island of Oahu. They are the big air raid speakers on high poles posted around the island of Oahu. The story goes like this…back when the state first installed the syetem, they did a test siren to see how people reacted. They wanted to see how badly the tsunami evacuation routes were strained by traffic – it turned out that the evacuation routes were remarkably traffic free – the beaches on the other hand were crowded because everyone wanted to see the big waves.

That’s the world we live in. People rush to see the disasters and we are so immunized to the call of danger that we ignore the alarms going off around us, or worse, we do the exact oppossite of what we should be doing when we hear them.

There are alarms going off around us all the time – yes, car and burglar alarms, sirens, and the many alarms of our phones but more than that. There are alarms we should be reacting to – every homeless person is an alarm that there is something wrong with our socieity – I pass dozens every day. Every school shooting, act of road rage, or other act of violence is an alarm that should tell us that our way of life is not working. The drug overdoses, the obesity, the suicides, the despair – all of these things are alarms that most of us simply ignore.

And then there are the real alarms – in the recent hurricanes there were huge numbers of people who chose to ignore evacuation orders. My tsunami siren story isn’t made up…people went out to see the waves. And if you don’t believe me – here are a couple of real examples from my weekend. I took my wife to the Kahala Mall so she could do a little shopping…while she shopped, my daughter and I played games and explored the kids shops…

Right in front of the Fun Factory, an old man in a yellow t-shirt collapsed. Suddenly, there he was on the ground and people walking around him, ignoring him. We were twenty feet away and there were a lot of people between he and us – my first inclination was to run over and help him, but then I had some cold reality thoughts – I didn’t want to freak out my 6-year-old with a dying man, I didn’t know if he was really sick or having a heart attack, my duty was to first of all protect my daughter and keep her safe, he might have a disease like hepatitis, and worst of all – I didn’t want to get sued for not being able to save him if I tried to help him and ended up doing more harm than good – my CPR certification is five years old. Apparently, all of the other people were having the same thoughts because no one moved to help him…and so we moved closer and closer and I tried to figure out what to do but thankfully when we got within about five feet a middle aged woman knelt down next to him and another person ran to get security – and so I fell back into the crowd. If I had gotten there, I’m not sure I would have helped him – so I am thankful that someone else did, thus freeing me of the responsibility of potentially letting a fellow human being die right in front of me. It all happened in the space of a minute or less but what really struck me was how all of those people in the mall were doing the same thing as me, waiting for someone else to take care of it. How’s that for an alarm? How’s that for a metaphor for our dying civilization?

The paramedics and security came. I don’t know more than that. We wandered to a different area of the mall and suddenly the fire alarm was going off. Flashing strobes and high alarm sounds. An automated robotic voice coming out of the speakers every twelve feet “Please remain calm and evacuate to the nearest exit. Do not use the elevators. Move to the nearest exit. This is not a drill.” I looked around and I seemed to be the only person paying attention to it. Other mall shoppers kept going in and out of stores, looking at their phones, sipping their coffee and chatting with one another. They completely ignored it. I thought about mass shootings and tragic fires and people being trampled and put my daughter on my shoulders and walked calmly to the nearest exit looking for signs of fire and listening for gun shots – I heard neither. We went to the car where I was hoping to find my wife – she wasn’t there, the alarm continued, people continued walking into the mall, very few came out. I tried to text or call my wife but she didn’t answer.

We cautiously went to the store we knew she was in and walked inside. She was still shopping. I asked if she had heard the alarm and she said yes and that “No one seemed bothered by it, so I wasn’t either.” I suggested we leave and just then the alarm stopped and a security guards voice came on and said “Attention shoppers, please ignore the false alarm. Repeat, it was a false alarm”

Everyone had ignored it anyway. That’s what we do now. We ignore the alarms and everything works out just fine. At least until it doesn’t.

Bad Capitalism

First of all, let me start by saying that I believe there really is good capitalism. I’ve never seen it, but I think it is possible. Good capitalism encourages innovation, promotes the well being of society across all classes, and has built in safe-guards to prevent worker exploitation, obscene hoarding of resources, and most importantly – works hard to blur economic stratification.

The disgusting system we have in the USA isn’t anything like what I”ve described above. Quite the oppossite. Our system creates artificial barriers to entry, uses crony-legislation to discourage innovation or change, tends to encourage scheming and lying to the public and the so-called watchdogs of society, and allows those with a head start to create rules which let them take more of the public domain – and increasingly is privatising (selling off) assets and institutions set aside for the public. This is not capitalism – pure and simple – it is Exploitism and we are deeply in it. It’s fucking disgusting.

People are blind to it and worse- they encourage it. Last night, my family and I went to a school fund raising function. It was a dinner and show and tickets were $30 each. The price was a little steep for the demographics of the school – so most families didn’t go – which was what I had expected to see. Since we are only three – it wasn’t terrible for us. Dinner was about what you would expect and the show was nice and overall it was pretty satisfying but I was bothered by something else so much that I won’t go to another function put on by this particular organization.

When we bought the tickets (about 2 weeks in advance) there were two options – individual tickets at $30 each or you could purchase an entire table for $300 which included tickets for ten – so the cost was the same but you had a table set aside. Well, some genius who was obviously indoctrinated in bad capitalism decided that since these were reserved tables, that they were VIP tables – as oppossed to the rest of us who were obvioulsy not very important people.

So they covered the reserved tables with gold paper (the rest of us had white) and they moved them to the front of the room in a big line (a solid line which blocked everyone elses view of the show) and they made all of the rest of us wait to get in line to eat until after the VIP tables had all gotten their food, and they gave them individual shout outs of thanks.

Now, keep in mind – we all paid the same price per head – these were simply bigger family groups. So, in that sense it was bad capitalism in that the person who set it all up was offering more for the same price. Since the event was under-attended – the 10-top tables were the only full tables – in fact we had a table to ourselves – just the three of us – which was nice. And as I mentioned, the food was so-so and the entertainment was good.

It was that bad economic thinking that bothered me – and that they had gone to such a huge trouble to stratify us. I didn’t like the lessons they were teaching the kids and I didn’t like the idea that the people who set this thing up were responsible for my daughter’s education. First of all – it was a school event – there shouldn’t be VIP tables unless they are for dignitaries or special guests of some kind. Second – the VIPS were singled out without actually having done anything beyond what the non-VIPS had done (paid $30 each to come support their kid’s school). Third – the fucking idiots set up the tables so that everyone who wasn’t at a ‘gold’ table had an obstructed view because they had set the tables up in a solid line in front of the stage (and half the stage was at the same level).

If anyone reading this should ever happen to set up an event like that here are a few suggestons:
Offer a private table if ten or more buy tickets together (not a VIP table, for crying out loud – which btw wasn’t what was offered anyway)
Create a game where each table has a chance of going first – i.e. Give the tables numbers and then draw them from a hat or have a trivia challenge.
Set up the tables like clamshells with staggered spaces.
If you actually have to have VIP tickets – make them more expensive i.e. $500 for the coveted gold tablecloth and first in line priveliges – not just a matter of scale.

I’m just thankful my daughter didn’t ask me why we couldn’t sit at the VIP tables – what answer could I give? Those are for bigger families? Those people are more important than us? Those people paid more money in total? Or maybe it would have been a good time to explain about the arbitrary exploitation of certain classes and the subtleteies of discrimination and privelige…because that’s something every six-year-old should probably hear about earlier rather than later.

We Should All Go Dark….

If there were a big button that would shut down the internet and cell phone connectivity and cable television – I would push it. The psychological damage of the past month (and not to mention of 2016) to the American people and to the world has been fucking gargantuan. Nobody is reporting on this, there is no way to measure it, but you can be sure it is true and the damage is real. The news cycle, non-stop coverage, and the blowing up of every event into a massive chicken little story of the sky falling – these things are destroying our psyches, we are in a perpetual state of alarm…think about it for a second…

North Korea nukes, White supremacist rallies, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, DACA, and the list goes on and on…

If you are like me (and there is a 99.9% chance that you are) there is absolutely nothing you can do about any of those things. Nothing. And even if there is something you can do – like activism – you would have been fine waiting a week to hear about any of those stories…instead they were shoved down our throats and blown up to be huge events when in fact, they were just everyday examples of humans being assholes or nature being nature. All this constant panic news is doing is making us crazy. The largest storm, the most expenve disaster, a cataclysmic apocalypse, yeah…none of that….just ratings hype bullshit. If the big storm does hit – I will do what I can to help – but not until the results are in. As for the missiles…unless I am already home and hear about it instantly – the 22 minute flight time won’t even be enough to pick my child up from school – so I might as well wait until the mushroom cloud is rising to freak out about it. There is nothing I can do. We should all become 12 steppers with our insane addiction to panic news…

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change (like hurricanes, nuclear war, or ignorant hate filled assholes doing awful things).
God grant me the courage to change the things I can (like not cussing at someone when they cut me off or helping my child with her homework even if I am tired)
God grant me the wisdom to know the difference. ( and to turn off the news and stop being manipulated into an artificial state of panic)

Hillary Clinton and ‘wish I would have said that’ syndrome

I voted for Hillary Clinton. She wasn’t even close to being my favorite candidate of all time, but, frankly, I wanted to see a woman in the White House and I didn’t want to see Donald Trump in the White House. So my vote was clear.

Unfortunately, Hillary Clinton is releasing a book right now. It makes something very clear. She was a victim of bullying and now she is letting us know that she wishes she would have said that. It’s something we all do when we are bullied, but we don’t all get paid for big public speaking engagements to do it.

Donald Trump is a disgusting creature – there is no doubt about that – but with this book, Hillary Clinton shows us who she really is, a mean, petty, angry old white lady – actually, sort of exactly the profile of the women who voted for Trump. We can all breathe a sigh of relief that she didn’t win the election – except that someone who is just as awful and quite possibly worse won the election.

Why couldn’t we have had a female candidate like Sarah Silverman? Why couldn’t we have had a candidate like Oprah? In 2016 we had a choice between a bunch of lame old white people. Bernie Sanders sounded great but even Fidel Castro in Cuba wouldn’t have been able to deliver what Sanders was promising…He was just another delusional old white dude…yeah, he’s a crotchety old Jew and yeah, I would have voted for him if he had made it to the general election – but Clinton was in charge of the party machinery and she ran the most inept campaign in modern history. Worse than Al Gore’s!

Now here she is, lashing out at everyone and anyone. Blaming everyone else for her loss. Trying to justify to herself that she was cheated and using the rest of us to do it. She wasn’t cheated. She was bullied and she ran a terrible campaign. Jeb Bush isn’t releasing a book and he was bullied far worse by the bully in chief. The biggest problem in Clinton’s campaign was her tone – (and that was Jeb’s problem too) – her tone sounded like she probably really is – she sounded like she thought she was better than everyone around her. Her gesstures to silence applause with that smug look on her face. Her toneless and arrogant speech patterns and then her incredibly awkward attempts to make herself into the everyman or everywoman. When you know someone is arrogant as fuck and they are working hard to bring themselves down to your level – it doesn’t work. It makes people resent you. The message you are sending is “I know I’m better than you but look, I can lower myself to communicate with you” and that message sends a big fuck you to those people. And those people want to see you fall. And so we had that versus the super rich asshole who was just who he was. And the super rich asshole won. His message was “I’m better than you but you can be as good as me” and hers was “I’m better than you but I can be as low as you”

That’s it – end of story. Well, that and that the width and breadth of racism and sexism in this country was vastly underestimated after 8 years of Obama.

So now we get to hear Hillary tell us all the things that were done to her, how she was victimized, and all the things she wishes she would have said. We get it, Clinton. Nobody likes to lose to an asshole – but all you are doing with your book is showing us that we had no choice to begin with – an asshole was going to win this election either way.

The Whirlpool – A Parable of Our Times

Our world is beautiful. There are moments in each day (many of them) when the breath of life should fill us with joy. Each morsel of food, each flower we pass, each exotic smell or sound. The colors of life are beyond wonderful. We should all be ecstatic.

But we are not.

Something has happened which is pulling us down and destroying all of our lives. We are caught in a viscious cycle that none of us created. The solution will require all of us to be onboard with it. I can’t for the life of me figure out how that could happen. The events of 2016 and forward have demonstrated just how gargantuan and improbable a solution is.

Here is our problem – told in a story.

Imagine a cafeteria filled with children sitting at tables. Each child has a stack of paper. Each child has a large box of crayons. They can create art for as long as they want – there is no shortage of materials. There is plenty for each of them.

One child starts crumpling paper and throwing it at other children. Then one starts throwing crayons. The children who want to keep drawing and coloring are hit now and then as the paper and crayon throwing continues. Gradually, the paper starts to ruen out for the paper throwers and the crayons start to run out for the crayond throwers. Certain kids start taking the materials from other kids – some of them ask and use beautiful sounding words, others use force, others use deciept and theft. An enterprising child starts to gather the materials from the floor – a suggestion is made that materials from teh floor should be put in a central box on each table. Those kids who have avoided the paper/crayon war so far are eventually forced or coerced into putting their paper and crayons in the central box. Certain people are put in charge of the materials, they dole them out, horde them, or share them. Gradually, an economy arises where acts have to be performed to be given materials. Those who do not help clear the floor, uncrumple the papers, or do other service are not allowed to have materials. At this point there is a lot of crying – there are a lot of attempts by the broader minded children to create fairness – the kids who want to throw things, the kids who want to horde things, the kids who want to cheat and steal and exploit – they don’t stop. They may start being sneaky about it – but the system they have created continues and they start putting together bigger secret piles in secret places – under the table, in the corners, etc. Their hordes grow larger and larger as they are not constrained by the rules – and meanwhile, the kids who didn’t do anything wrong, the kids who followed the rules, the kids who are not to blame for the artificial scarcity are forced to work instead of draw, they are forced to give more and more time to get the materials that were theirs in the first place, they are sometimes left unable to even get a single broken crayon or a single crumpled piece of paper. Meanwhile, in thier strongholds, the bosses of the crayon/paper cartels draw, play, laugh, and tell their minions to continue the chaos which has allowed them to take control – of everything.

And that’s where we are.

There are solutions, but they are not easy. Since there are no adults to restore the initial balance … the children must discover the solution on their own. We should all be able to live and enjoy our lives – what will it take to make that so?

Paved Paradise and didn’t put in ENOUGH Parking Lots

Okay, I admit it, I muddled the lead because I wanted to riff on Joni Mitchel’s song. The real problem isn’t enough parking lots, it’s too many cars. Yesterday morning, far too early, I woke up and went to sell at the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet. It was a good first experience there – I was mobbed before light by vendors and early birds who knew that I was fresh meat – and then I stayed four hours in a not very good location and still made more than a day of work at my day job. By noon, I was home and loading my family into the car for a day at the beach – now to be fair – I should have known better than to head to Waikiki on a Sunday – but that was where the girls wanted to go and I figured we would find parking somewhere…I was wrong. We had plate lunches in the back of the car getting cold and by 1:30 we had not found a single parking space but I nearly got in fisticuffs with another guy who decided to zip by me when I thought I found a space (it was a fire hydrant) and then changed my mind. His road rage was such that I thought he might ram my car with his truck and then he started yelling and making threatening gestures and me, I just ignored him and drove on knowing that my wife and daughter were in the car and that engaging with a road rager put them in danger – eventually, he stopped following me. Granted, I did veer in front of him – which was an accident – but it wouldn’t have been a big deal if he hadn’t of decided to try to zip around me at a high and unexpected speed. So, there we were – lunch getting cold, not finding a parking space, and everyone in the car getting grumpy while other drivers were doing the same. Finally, I decided to give up and we headed to Ala Moana beach park where there is more parking usually – or used to be. One parking lot was shut down with a sign “shut down for workers’ – on a Sunday? And the only space we saw open up had three people lined up waiting for it. After two hours of wanting to enjoy the beach but instead being in the car, I was done. We weren’t going to go to Waikiki or Ala Moana so instead we drove East to Aina Haina and found a parking space close enough to a nice little rocky beachpark where we ate our pokebowls and I taught the girls how to snorkel. It was a lovely afternoon – but the parking thing. Parking isn’t the problem. Cars on Oahu are the problem. Cars need to be removed and banned from this island. I love my personal vehicle as much as the next guy, but the problem is too far gone. Cars are destroying the Hawaiian vibe – to a large extent have already destroyed it. I have the solution – it wouldn’t be impossible but people wouldn’t like it until they realized just how good it is. Step 1) A taxpayer funded buyback of clunkers and low value cars. $1000-$1500 per vehicle for any and all vehicles with no title, paperwork, running or not running. Ship all those cars to a junker on the mainland to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. This would also include all the abandoned vehicles and impounded vehicles. If the transport to the mainland could be negotiated well, this could actually result in a profit for taxpayers.
Step 2) A moratorium on new vehicles being brought to the island. For each vehicle brought to Hawaii, a vehicle would need to be exported. Auto dealerships would need to buy and export as many vehicles as they intend to sell. Thise would create a brisk business for future clunkers and abandoned vehicles. The same rule would apply to car rental agencies. Trade in values would go up with dealers. Step 3) A ban on military POVs (personally owned vehicles). Our troops don’t need to bring their huge Iowa trucks and their spouses and children’s vehicles to Oahu. The military could be a good neighbor with this policy and could also provide additional transport options for garrissoned troops like buses, military taxis, etc. Step 4 – This one would be very controversial – banning vehicles from downtown Honolulu, banning personal vehicles from Waikiki and from Ala Moana. Setting up park and ride lots nearby with free shuttle service to these areas.

I realize that banning cars in the United States is about as realistic as banning guns – but the truth is – cars are turning paradise into a parasite (hat tip to my wife for that one) by sucking the time and the joy from people without them even knowing it.