Before-Digital and Post-Digital Ages

I’m fairly certain that at some point in the future, the dividing line between ages will be BD and PD- much like the dividing line we use for BC or AD (Before Christ or After Death was what I learned in school – which was wrong but sticks in my mind anyway). So yes, we … Continue reading “Before-Digital and Post-Digital Ages”

I’m fairly certain that at some point in the future, the dividing line between ages will be BD and PD- much like the dividing line we use for BC or AD (Before Christ or After Death was what I learned in school – which was wrong but sticks in my mind anyway). So yes, we will have the years where not much is known – the years when there was no digital photographic or audio recording technology and the years where everything was captured. A good example of that rose to my attention last night – in the 1960s the teleplay Man of LaMancha aired on TV. There are no recordings of it because at the time there were not video recorders (which were linear but close enough to the digital tech age that much of what was captured on linear data devices has been translated to digital and saved). There is a gray area where this linear tech exists – roughly from 1960-1990 – when things like records, audio tapes, video tapes, photographs, and even hand written or typewriter written documents were still the norm but were transferrred to digital technology with the aid of scanners, digital recorders, DAT, etc. Not all of these captured moments have been digitized, but enough that there will always be a clear picture of the transition from non-digital society to digital society. By and large, we can say that the generation that grew up from 1960-1990, my generation, Gen-X, was the last non-digital generation and the first digital generation. The way of life that existed during our childhood and adolescence will never be foggy, like that of the generations that came before us, but it will never be crystal clear like those who follow. I’ve already noticed that Hollywood is mining this treasure trove of light mystique and that trend will only continue.

It’s funny to think of how difficult these changes have been – we are still going through them. Our world is as different from the world of 1989 as the world of 1989 was from the world of 1589. Yes, we’ve gone through 300 years of change in just 30 years. The age of flight was nothing as compared to the age of digitalization. A man from 1589 could have been normalized to the world of 1989 – yes, there were planes but Davinci had proposed flight and French balloonists were flying close to his time of 1589. A car might have been shocking, but ultimately it is a carriage run by a combination of mechanical processes that could be easily understood with explanation – even in 1589. But a digital camera? A cell phone? The internet? A smart phone with a camera, a virtual assistant, the internet, phone capability, digital music, and Google Earth – try explaining that to someone alive today – let alone to someone from 300 years ago. It would be a stretch to explain that to an adult from 1959. But, you probably could explain it to someone who came of age in the 1970s or 1980s – at any time.

I feel fortunate to have been alive at this time. To have borne witness to this change of epochs. To be clear, I think my generation got the worst of both worlds – we got the shaft because we will not get the full benefits of the mature technology that will emerge in 10-20 years and we did not get the 300 year security that our parents were born into. The magnitude of this shift won’t be clear for a long time – at present – most people aren’t aware of it at all.

The Thoughts and Questions That Plague My Mind

Is this the best that we can do?

That’s the first one. It’s the most depressing one. Humanity has failed. Not only is it not the best we can do, it’s not even in the top 90% of what we can do. We have failed on so many levels that it is impossible to list them all. Here are just a few with no statistics because I’m sure the statistics would be even worse.
Child Starvation
People with no access to healthcare
Suicide
Hate crimes
Addiction in all of it’s forms
Environmental degradation
Mass Extinction
Homelessness (while speculation homes sit empty)
I could go on…and on…and on…and on. We have failed. This human civilization is a complete and total failure. We have failed each other and we have failed ourselves in the process.

So that’s the first question that plagues my mind. And it brings me to the next question which is more personal “Is this the best I can do?” and the answer to that is no too. My ego wants to give me all the excuses in the world – starting with blaming this human culture I am forced to live in. Ultimately, I want to do more, but I fail. I’m like the old woman with $1 who donates half of it to charity. It’s 50% of what she has and it doesn’t make a difference. 100% of what she has wouldn’t make a difference. I’m like that – unless she can do something to get a much larger sum of money – her charity won’t matter a bit – and neither will mine. I have to scramble, duck, and roll and focus my energy non-stop in order to take care of my family and keep myself in a position to do so. And that excuse sounds pretty good – but the truth is I am not doing the best I can do and I don’t know exactly why that is.

Love is the answer. I’m pretty sure that’s true. However, I’m so filled with anger and rage at the injustices of the world that it is sometimes impossible to give a stranger so much as a smile. Especially if I’ve just read about a child being separated from their parents and the stranger is driving a $50,000 truck with a Make America Great Again sticker on it. Man, those awful baby boomers – they’ve made the world a thousand times worse than it was before them. All the wars in history before them didn’t do as much damage to the planet as they have done in their lifetimes with their greed and hypocrisy. And they’ve tightened the chains around those who followed and reduced the chances for us to achieve any sort of real meaningful freedom besides death.

I’ll tell you what hell would be – to die and wake up surrounded by all the baby boomers. It’s hell on earth and it would be the worst sort of eternal hell. I’ve never been scared of death, but that thought makes me want to cling onto dear life with a death-grip. The soldier-hippie boomers of the 60s, the disco boomers of the 70s, the awful yuppie boomers of the 80s,the disgusting bootstrap-upper management boomers of the 90s, the foul early retirement boomers of the 2000s, and the RV-downsized-still-most-selfish-generation-but-now-need-to-be-taken-care-of boomers of the current decade. God, I want to puke. So, yeah, love may be the answer but I can’t love them because I don’t have Stockholm Syndrome.

What the kids today need to do is have a Lord of the Flies party where take out everyone who is already an adult or who thinks like an adult in the world today and then re-create society. Lord of the Flies would be messy and I don’t want to be killed by gangs of tweens, but for them it would be a better solution.

I wish I could tell you I have an ideology that would make things better – but I don’t. All of the ideologies are bullshit. The ideologues are assholes. And of course, money is the problem – I’ve been to Sardis where the first money was produced and while it was a beautiful ruin – I’ve never been somewhere that so completely emanated evil – although the Pentagon has the same sort of vibe and when I’ve visited concentration camps – those have a similar aura. Do you want to understand money? I wanted to. It’s part of what led me to Sardis in the first place. Money makes slavery possible. Without money, slavery is impossible. People like my sister – who work hard and study and stay on course and spend their lives working working working (but rarely at what they are passionate about) talk about working hard for a purpose – that purpose is ‘buying their freedom’. They want to be free someday – which tells you the truth – they are not free. And if you are not free you are either a prisoner or a slave.

I am a slave to money. I admit it. I do what money needs me to do. I do what money tells me to do. Sometimes it is fun – usually, I feel like a prisoner forced to labor.

2017 World Happiness Survey – Thoughts on Happiness

There are a lot of very short news stories about the Global Happiness Survey – most of them read something like “Norway is the happiest country in the world” – and then they talk about the top ten countries and the places and the place of the USA and the bottom two or three countries and maybe how countries shifted from the last survey. When you read the actual report, there is a lot more to it. Here is the link to the full report: https://s3.amazonaws.com/sdsn-whr2017/HR17_3-20-17.pdf

On page 122 of the report (yes, it is nearly 200 hundred pages long) what I consider to be the most revealing chapter begins – it is titled “The Key Determinants of Happiness and Misery” – it begins with this:

This chapter is directed at policy-makers of all kinds—both in government and in NGOs. We assume, like Thomas Jefferson, that “the care of human life and happiness … is the only legitimate object of good government.”1 And we assume that NGOs would have similar objectives. In other words, all policy-makers want to create the conditions for the greatest possible happiness in the population and, especially, the least possible misery.

Which sounds great but which is obviously not true. Policy makers in 2017 want money and power for their financial backers. The problems with the world are well known and easily solved – if that were what those in control wanted to do. They do not. And to prove that point the last paragraph of the chapter:

To conclude, within any country, mental health explains more of the variance of happiness in Western countries than income does. In Indonesia mental illness also matters, but less than income. Nowhere is physical illness a bigger source of misery than mental illness. Equally, if we go back to childhood, the key factors for the future adult are the mental health of the mother and the social ambiance of primary and secondary school. The implications for policy are momentous.

If we wanted to have a better world filled with happier people, we would be focused on taking care of mental health, ensuring that mothers (and fathers) had the support they need to be good parents, and that schools were creating the type of atmosphere which brings about psychologically healthy and confident individuals – instead of factories that create workers filled with fear, anxiety, and depression. Simple. Business does not create happiness, nor does war/defense, nor do jobs, nor do any of the other things we spend trillions of dollars on. Security in childhood, healthcare, and education. That’s it.

This report is a treasure trove of information about creating a happier planet like this:

The effect from the increase in the numbers of people having someone to count on in times of trouble is by itself equal to the happiness effects from the 16-fold increase in average per capita annual incomes required to shift the three poorest countries up to the world average (from about $600 to about $10,000).

From my point of view – this fact alone shows why the two working parents, dog-eat-dog, get out when you are 18, take care of yourself, ‘sorry, I can’t help you’ society of capitalism in the USA is leading to unhappiness, stress, anxiety, overeating, alcoholism, and drug abuse/overdose. We can’t count on each other here. People give lip service to being there for their families, but in my experience (in my awful family) when it comes time to put their actions where their mouth is, Americans turn selfish. My wife’s family in Morocco mean it when they say you can stay as long as you want or need to, they mean it when they tell you that their home is your home, they are there for you in whatever capacity they can be – without excuses. They are not rich – they work hard to survive – but I know for certain that they would never turn away a dear friend or family member even if it meant they had to work harder. When I think of them in comparison with myself or my family, I feel ashamed – and I should. They are poor and they suffer in their poverty, but they are happier than most Americans I’ve met.

And…one last quote just to drive home a point

Overall, the chapter concludes that falling American happiness is due primarily to social rather than to economic causes.

Life, Death, and Student Loans

The title of this post sounds good in the order I put it, but I’m going to reverse that order as I write this. Since I graduated in 2008, my student loans have been a huge burden. Despite having paid off $10k, I’ve had to defer the loans and they have grown from around $35k to close to $50k. Since coming to the USA in 2013 the burdens of rent, auto insurance, auto repairs, health insurance, groceries, utilities, and every other bill that you are forced to pay when you try to have a life here have forced me to defer my loans again and again. I’ve built a couple of profitable businesses in this little town that have enabled us to live here – and my hope was that I would be able to sell them and pay off my loans – but the sad truth seems to be that people who live here don’t have the money or the ability to buy or more importantly to take over these businesses – it’s not that they are unable to do the work, it’s that they are (by and large) on social security or disability or retirement pensions that will penalize them if they earn money. It’s one of the reasons it is so hard to find good help here – people don’t want to screw up their current entitlements. So, as much as I hate to say it – it looks like my student loans will continue to grow and I will continue to defer them – indefinitely unless something changes.

And that brings me to death. I’m not sure, but I think debt remains even after you die. If I were to die, my family would inherit my debt – which is complete bullshit. I have a life insurance policy that would cover everything – but I certainly hope that in the event of my death they will take the money and give the middle finger to the debt collectors – it is not their debt and if I die, the debt dies with me – at least that’s how I think it should be. The debt owners should have a life insurance policy on me if they want to collect when and if I die. But, I don’t intend to die anytime soon. However, living in this town of retirement and disability and working as I do with liquidating the estates of the dead or soon to be dead – I am more acutely aware of my own mortality than I’ve ever been – and I’ve always been acutely aware of it. All of this American bullshit we worry about doesn’t matter – the chase after money, the chase after paying bills, the insurance, the stockmarket, the tech gadgets, blah blah blah. We are going to die someday and that is all there is to it. That awareness is what has led me to live the life that I’ve led – we have today but yesterday is gone and tomorrow never has a guarantee. We must live.

And that brings me to life. I want to enjoy the life I live and I want to give my daughter every opportunity to enjoy the life she lives. I want my wife to enjoy the life she lives. These past four years, we have been working towards several goals 1) American citizenship for my wife (which we have achieved) 2) Paying off my student loans (which I discussed above but am ready to give up on) and 3) Building careers and business which will support us and allow us to live the rest of our lives the way we want to live – this is a tricky one because my wife’s family still lives in North Africa – so the life we want needs to include a way to see them at least periodically. The life we want to live must also include warm ocean and sunny beaches – which is something the Oregon Coast simply does not offer. There are people in the USA who I love and care about, but if I do not see them for years at a time, I can deal with that. The same is not true for my wife and her family in Europe and North Africa – this has been a huge burden for her. And that brings me to it – we are ready to live. Because we are ready to live, we are ready to move along to a very different life in a very different place. We are putting it all together now as Sophia finishes kindergarten and Hanane finishes up teaching for the school year. Stay tuned for much much more…

The Pyramid Conspiracy Theorist aka The Smartest Man in the World

The smartest man in the world came into my shop today – he didn’t overtly say he was the smartest man in the world, but it was obvious he had the answers to everything. Jesuits, he was ready to tell me about their conspiracy. He told me how the Ancient Egyptians were actually Aryans and used swastikas in their ancient ceremonies and all about how the Jews we consider the Jews weren’t really the Jews at all because the real Jews were all black. He told me about an upside down pyramid in Alaska and Pyramids in Mississippi and Missouri and how there are pyramids on every continent buried under piles of dirt and how he someday wants to travel to them all and light them with strings of LED lights but not to tell Mark Burnett because he would steal the reality show idea from him (oops, oh well, he probably isn’t reading this – not Burnett or the smartest man in the world). Oh the things he told me – and all of that without me even asking to be told anything at all! In fact, when he started to tell me anything at all, I kept saying “I don’t want to know about any of that, I just want to watch reality TV and live in this little town where nothing happens. He told me about big cities and dangerous neighborhoods and he told me about the real problems in the world and how companies can be profitable and what I should buy to sell in my shop. He told me about how Mermaids were dangerous and would eat you (if they were real) and then told me that they are real and he has seen videos of them circling around oil rigs waiting to eat the workers. He told me about more pyramids and how they were obvious and everyone knew about them but people chose to just overlook them and so he was going to expose them (again) with LED lights.

It was exhausting trying to get the smartest man in the world to stop telling me things. I tried every polite trick in the world, but none of them worked. He showed me pictures on his phone that I didn’t ask to see. Finally, he left. I prefer to not be around such smart people. I’m very tired of being trapped in my shop when they come to share their knowledge with me. Yes, I’m almost through with this aspect of my life. That knowledge is all that I need at present, thank you very much.

The Gradual Dismantling of Democracy

The first 50 days of President Il Douche have been somewhat of a relief – which is a bit strange to say, but there it is. My worst fears had been a sort of blitzkrieg against everything that our country stands for – using the National Guard against civilian targets, the setting up of internment camps, the rounding up of political enemies, and the seizing of assets based on religion, ethnicity, or politics. Yes, steps have been taken by the administration in all of these directions but the safeguards put in place by the founding fathers and later generations have proved to be a buffer, not an insurmountable buffer, but one that has prevented the instant consolidation of power and allows time for resistance to be organized. All of that being said – the American experiment in democracy is being dismantled albeit at a gradual rate. There has been no grand awakening of enlightenment among the new administration, no sudden revelation of truth, justice, and the American way. In many ways, it has proved itself to be worse than even the most pessimistic among us feared – but the slowdown has been such a relief. The appointments and nominations were not rubber stamped, the initial travel ban was challenged and shut down, the follow up ban continues to be challenged, protections for LGBT, children, and immigrants have been weakened but not wiped away- yet. In my worst fears, things would already be much worse than they are – but of course they are actually very very bad. The most powerful position in the world is occupied by a narcissistic liar who deflects legitimate concerns about the integrity of his person or his government with manufactured conspiracy theories – we have still not seen his taxes or income and probably never will, the ties between Russia and his administration (and himself personally) run deep – deep enough that it is not inconceivable that he is bought and paid for by Russian oil money, each potential scandal surrounding him seems to be met with a manufactured conspiracy from the Russian controlled wikileaks, or a made-up story taken directly from talk radio. It seems clear to me that while we are distracted by the absurd headline grabbing stories, the safeguards of democracy are being dismantled behind our backs. If you think about it, the US with it’s drone like workforce and population enslaved by debt is an income generating machine – if you were to think of it as a company (which the current administration certainly does) you would work at weakening unions and collective bargaining power, decreasing pay and benefits, and increasing output. If we were to look at the current administration as a hostile takeover by corporate raiders, the next step is asset stripping to pay back the debts incurred by the hostile takeover. I believe that we can expect to see legislation which enables the following – maximizing debt for corporate projects (i.e. huge infrastructure projects, increased military spending, privatization of government funded institutions), defunding of institutions designed to protect citizens from corporate greed, selling off of assets to administration-friendly corporations at a loss, and a softer position internationally against our own interest but in the favor of Russian interests. The wealth of those associated with the administration will soar, the chains of debt for the rest of us will be strengthened. I believe we will see credit requirements eased but exit strategies from that debt tightened. Bankruptcy, which has allowed the administration’s CEO to get to where he is, might be a thing that is no longer allowed below a certain level. Time will tell. In any event, I don’t think that things are looking good for anyone who is not already in the top 10%.