The Age of Uncertainty

Is it going to happen? Are the words true? Is he just talking to talk or does he really believe what he says? Is this really a big storm or is the media just blowing it up? Are these statistics put out by a lobbying group? Do the facts in that ad stand up to … Continue reading “The Age of Uncertainty”

Is it going to happen?
Are the words true?
Is he just talking to talk or does he really believe what he says?
Is this really a big storm or is the media just blowing it up?
Are these statistics put out by a lobbying group?
Do the facts in that ad stand up to scrutiny?
Who paid for the public service announcement?
Is this fake news?
Is this the truth or is it alternative truth?

We don’t know. We might think we know, but we don’t. We don’t know if the emissions and mileage on our cars are accurate. We don’t know if a person is in our tribe or pretending to be in our tribe. We don’t know anything. We have created the age of uncertainty – or at least someone has created it. Madison avenue and focus groups, public interest funding and special interest funding, legislation that misleads or hides the truth. We know nothing despite the non-stop news and non-stop reporting and incessant talking, tweeting, and social media sharing. No one is certain of the truth.

Except me. What’s that? You know the truth? Well…the truth you know isn’t the truth I know…so let’s fight about it.

WTF is going on in Hawaii?

Hawaii is my home. I’ve lived here longer than anywhere else I’ve ever lived. I’ve been following the news for a long time – even when I was away. The last week has been insane…I’ve never seen so much violent crime in a single week. A deadly shooting in Waikiki a few days ago, a deadly shooting in Chinatown last night, three attempted kidnappings (two of them kids on the way to school and one a grandmother at Ala Moana Shopping Center), a couple of incidences of road rage – one where a man smashed the window of a car with a two year old girl in it, and more. This is absolutely insane. Three weeks ago there was a violent and armed home invasion. I can only guess that the pressure of insane cost of living paired with low wages and far too many vehicles on the road and the overall violent pressure from earthquakes, hurricanes, and nuclear war are driving people to the edge. One thing for sure – it’s awful and I hope it stops soon.

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.