The Problem with Everything

The problem with everything is that human beings have a tendency to take the short term self-interest choice over the long terms self interest choice. We are, for some reason, wired for it. I understand this, but I’m having a hard time explaining it in words.

Let’s say there is an apple tree next to a town. The tree provides enough apples for everyone. Perfect, right? Wrong. Every person in the town will feel a little bit of an urge to hoard or to take more than their fair share. Will they all do it? Probably not. I believe there is an intrinsic altruism built into some people – maybe altruism is the wrong word – maybe golden rule practicality is the phrase I need to use here. So, the golden rule crowd will realize that they don’t want anyone to take their allocated share, so they won’t take more than their share – it’s a sort of long term self-interest but it comes out as looking like altruism in the short term. If there are people who are genuinely altruistic – they are exceedingly rare – I would suggest that there are only long term self interested and short term self interested people. There are also those who are playing a different game – they give up their share for some percieved benefit. There are many such – pity, honor, respect, or something else. The bottom line is that everyone looks at the apple tree and sees a benefit for themselves – and if the consequences outweigh the rewards for keeping everything even – everyone will have their share of apples.

But we all know that the world does not work like that. Those who seize the advantage early, generally have less consequences than those who do not. Some people realize that and are watching for that opportunity. In any event – the apples become a problem because some people are taking more than their fair share so others are getting less than their fair share. Cause and effect.

The headman of the town – whether appointed by strength, ability, or election – it doesn’t matter. A person steps to the fore and says the apples are a problem now – so we need to make some rules about them…and not everyone agrees. The person taking too many says something like “I work harder to take the apples so I deserve more” and the person getting too little says “Just because I am shorter, doesn’t mean I don’t deserve the apples growing higher” and the person who is canning the apples say “I am taking apples that would otherwise rot and making them into something that will keep” and everyone has a reason why their self-interest is more important than the other people’s self interest.

So, assuming a Kansas cattle grazing war doesn’t break out over the apples, rules are made and people are given the job of making everyone keep to the rules – which of course fails because the people keeping the rules suddenly have an advantage that will be expolited by themselves or by those smart enough to seek to exploit the advantage. So, ultimately, some people are left hungry, some people get fat, some people get rich, and others become poverty stricken. The poverty stricken and the hungry say “Hey, what about our interest?” And the rich and fat say “Why should we have to take care of those who don’t or can’t work as hard as we do?” And everyone is ultimately fucked because eventually, a cold, poor, hungry person cuts the apple tree down to use as firewoodpor simply to even the playing field so that no one has any apples.

The End.

What if, however, there was a way to change the way people think? What if, instead of focusing on the short term self interest, there was a way to get them to focus on the long term self interest? In that case, the apples would be harvested by all, the excess would be canned, and the needs of all would be met by the work of all. Wouldn’t that be awesome if something like that could happen?

The problem is that it can’t. Humans are short sighted, selfish, and ultimately unable to work together for a long term collective good.

And that’s the problem with everything.

The Great and Terrible Machine of Human Civilization

We, as a species, have built a great and terrible machine. It is a planetary behemoth which uses everything in its reach to make itself more great and, sadly, more terrible. I do not believe that the terrible part is an intentional design – for the most part – though there are some who at times wield great influence over the machine with intent that can be characterized as nothing but evil. Of course, evil must be defined. In this case, it will suffice to be defined as hatred or malice against the innocent; working towards the destruction, suffering, or eradication of entire populations. That is evil. The machine has also been, on occaision, been harnessed and directed toward good – the oppossite of evil. Good is the uplifting, relief, and protection of the entire population – as a whole. Good benefits all of humanity. Evil benefits only a select group at the expense of the rest. These are the definitions of good, evil, and the definition of the machine is simply the totality of human civilization as it exists at any point in time.

I do not think we can smash the machine, I do not think we can destroy the machine, I do not think we can be rid of the machine. The only way to do so would be to eradicate our species from the universe. We are a social species and so long as there are three humans there will be a machine. If there are less than three humans, our species is eradicated.

The machine is broken. It is badly broken. The chain of human events which have led to the current incarnation of the humanity machine are immutable. We cannot change the events of the past. At the moment, the machine propogates evil intent by placing maximum conditioning and stressors upon as many individuals as possible. For example, a man works to fuel the machine. In return, he is rewarded with the means to fulfill his needs. The same is true of woman. The joining together of man and woman should create an excess of resources and reduce the need to work but the machine does not benefit from leisure time. The machine benefits from maximum output from every individual, so it raises the cost of fulfillment while reducing the benefit of work. If the man and woman have a child, the cost of fulfillment is more than tripled and by necessity the man and woman must each work longer hours while the child must be cared for – the machine offers school – an indoctrination and worker training program. School allows the man and woman to work longer hours and gives the machine the chance to prepare and condition new workers. After school childcare is a means to keep workers working and create work for new workers. The machines demands production and for those who chose not to produce, the result is punishment in the form of homelessness, incarceration, no health care, and ultimately death.

Once you become aware of the machine, despair can easily set in. When you see the machine, you see how futile is our existance. What reason to live, work, rear children, save, and die? None. Only the machine. The machine does not love you, the machine does not care about you or your future, the machine does not respect you. You are nothing to the machine. You will disappear and there will be no memory of you. You do not matter. Nothing you do matters. You are only fuel and replacable fuel at that.

You cannot drop out of the machine. You cannot escape from the machine or opt-out of the machine. The machine owns you and controls you – you and every other human being on planet earth. The machine has billions of back up systems just like you and more are being made, conditioned, and prepared every second.

My First Day Driving for Lyft

Day before yesterday was my last day working as an underpaid contract archaeologist. The good news is that I’m still an archaeologist – but not employed as one. Maybe there are archaeology jobs out there that wouldn’t make me scramble to pay my bills or question my self worth with fry-cook pay on job sites where the guys who spray the ground with hoses to keep the dust down earn two to three times what I was getting paid… I thought about it, realized that if they wouldn’t pay me what I felt I was worth then I would go out and earn what I’m worth elsewhere. As a tour guide, I earn the same monthly pay I was getting as an archaeologist – but in just four days. So, I’ve given myself almost an entire month of free time if I choose to take it and during that time I’m setting up a new tour business, buying and selling online, at the swap meet, and on amazon and ebay – and I set myself up to drive for Lyft.

I don’t have any friends I’ve talked with who drive for Lyft or Uber, so I went into this blind. My application took a bit over two months. When I signed up, I thought I would do archaeology during the day and Lyft at night – but I’ve read that Lyft stretches applications to prevent drivers from completeing $350 sign on bonuses – so by a strange quirk of luck, on my last day as an archaeologist – Lyft approved me to drive.

I’d read a little bit online and decided that I was not going to be a driver offering free water or snacks etc to my riders. The margins are not super to begin with, so I’m not going to throw 50 cents hoping to get a $1-$2 tip that probably will come anyway if I drive safely and am friendly. People either tip or they don’t – there isn’t really an in between – at least in my experience as a waiter, bartender, driver, and guide. If they tip, they will tip even if the tip is included. If they don’t tip – they simply don’t tip. So there is no need to invest in it. Just smile, keep the car clean, and drive safely.

I went out in the middle of the day because I wanted to start slow. My expectation was that, this being Hawaii, I would be driving a lot of tourists around. I was completely wrong. I thought I would be doing a fair number of airport runs and drives to Kailua. I was completely wrong. I gave seven rides and every one of them was less than five miles and to people that live and work here. The rides were short and the interactions were fun. My first ride was a large man – a gay hairdresser on his way to work. 2.4 miles and he tipped me a buck. Nice guy. That was at 10:30. I drove around for an hour and twenty minutes and missed a ride because I didn’t reply in the 15 seconds. Then I missed another. My second ride was a bartender on his way to work 2.3 miles. Funny guy. The next ride called, I accepted and started driving to him then he cancelled. After about an hour and ten minutes, my third ride hailed me. I thought he was a crazy person because he was dancing with his phone in front of safeway – I called to make sure it was him, it was, he was. Nice guy doing some grocery shopping. A little off, but pleasant. 15 minutes later I picked up a mom and her son from school – they were nice. Just three minutes later I picked up a girl heading to Safeway. She was a tipper! 10 minutes after that was a girl heading to work in Waikiki…friendly and nice. Finally a woman who had relocated from Palau hailed me twelve minutes later from Walmart and I drove her home with her groceries. My longest ride was 2.4 miles and 16 minutes. In all, I had passengers in my car for 61 minutes and earned just shy of $40. The other three hours were time I spent wandering into different neighborhoods to see if rides would pop up. Mostly they didn’t. Lyft shows where peak ride areas are and it seems to me that there is a good argument to be made to find a place to park in those neighborhoods and wait for the rides while working on my laptop.

So, depending on how you look at it – I either made $39/hour or about $10/hour on my first day during non-peak time. The people were nice and the interactions were between 4 and 16 minutes which is just about the right amount of time for short character sketches. I think I can do much better than that as I learn more. In any event, I like it. I recommend it. If you want to give it a shot, I encourage you to give it a try. Here is my signup email…if you signup with my code, we both get paid extra – providing Lyft doesn’t take 60 days to approve you like they did with me…

Hey!

I think you’d make a great Lyft driver. Lyft matches drivers with passengers who request rides (and pay for the trip) through a smart phone app. As a driver, you’ll earn money by driving your own car, on your own schedule.

If you apply using my referral link, you’ll also pocket an extra bonus. (For example, Honolulu referrals get $750 after giving 150 rides in their first 50 days.) See the terms at https://lft.to/terms.

Here’s where to apply: https://www.lyft.com/drivers/CHRISTOPHER85479

Moving is Hard Work….

Just in case I forgot to mention it – moving is really hard work.Mentally and physically it is extremely challenging and the past month, I’ve been working in a state of hyper-overdrive. The amount of stuff that has been accomplished seems insurmountable when I look back on it…this is just the major list…there were countless smaller tasks and heavy objects…

1) Selling our antique store
2) Selling our little community paper
3) Training the new owners and taking care of details
4) Finding a job in Hawaii before moving here
5) Finding an apartment in Hawaii before moving here
6) Coming to Hawaii on a brief trip to secure said job and apartment
7) Packing our lives up into a 10×6 trailer
8) Delivering the trailer to Oakland and then driving back (1000 mile trip)
9) Liquidating our entire household (except what we shipped in the trailer)
10) Selling our vehicles and other cargo trailers
11) Storing my Vanagon
12) Flying across the ocean with my wife and five year old
13) Buying a car
14) Renting a storage unit
15) Furnishing our apartment
16) Starting a new career
17) Selling the trailer
18) Selling at the Hawaii All Collectors Show
19) Unpacking
20) Registering my daughter for school
21) Changing my phone anddrivers license over to Hawaii
And the list goes on and on …. technically, to be fair, this process started at the very end of May, so it’s been about 40 days … I’m exhausted and my body and mind feel like they’ve been through a serious beating…thank god it’s time to get to work. My vacation is now almost over.

May Day

It’s a beautiful day here on the Oregon Coast. The kind of day that almost makes me forget about how difficult the winter was this year. I walked my daughter to school – as I do most days when it isn’t raining – and took my time walking back. It wasn’t until I looked at the calendar that I realized it was May Day. A few years ago, while I was living in Istanbul, I went to the May Day celebrations in Taksim Square – it was nothing less than astounding. Wonderful. Beautiful. Thousands upon thousands of union members, communists, anarchists, students, and workers marching and singing and smiling in the sunshine. Of course, that was before the current president of Turkey began cracking down on such gatherings. Two years after I was there, the celebrations involved riot police and teargas. Now, as I understand it, the gatherings are outlawed all together. This is what it is like this year in 2017

That video was recorded five hours ago.

But here I am, on the Oregon Coast, a million miles away and reveling in the sunshine of a long awaited spring day. There are no May Day celebrations here – it is simply May 1st. May Day is important. It is actually International Workers Day that I am referring to, but most simply call it May Day. It is a day to remember that we are all humans. That we are not products. That we are not commodities. We are free and we are human and all of the things we take for granted were made by other humans doing human work, by workers. We are workers. We are human. We are one.

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.