JULY 2018

JULY 2018
One Hundred Years Later, Same Message. 1916 - 2017


Wednesday, August 21, 2013


I am a reluctant member of the “me” generation. As such I foresee a time in the not too distant future, when some moral adolescents will argue there is a need for a college course entitled “The History of Men”, to fill the yawning gap between what men have achieved and the scant notice they have received for it. How many of you, dear readers, realize it was a man who invented the tooth brush? The suppository? The zircon diamond? Men have labored too long in the shadows of history. In fact, we should probably redefine the entire field to some non-feminist dominated title, like, say, “His Story”. And once we have corrected this idiotic “poor me” issue, we can move on to other idiotic poor me issues like “The oppression of Christians in modern America”.
One evening in 1775 Samuel Johnson was quoted as saying, “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”, but the greater truth is “I am the victim ” is the first refuge of every jackass caught with his hand in somebody else's cookie jar. It ain't evil to feel sorry for yourself. It's human. We all do when caught by our own hypocrisy. We've been doing it for two or three million years, and we ain't likely to change now. But, as the famous social critic Anonymous once put it, “He who smell it, dealt it.” Words to live by.
Yes, history is a sexist term, because most historians have traditionally been men. You can't blame men for that. Well, okay, you can. But arrogance is a human condition suffered by both sexes and all races, and all religions. Focusing on the arrogance of Caucasian males seems a limited field of study – at least to this Caucasian male. And who can say how the next generation will define sexism, when I'm not really certain how this one does? Is a man giving up his seat on a bus to a woman, a sexist? How about a man not giving up his seat to a woman? Seriously, what is the rule? And if it is written down somewhere, was it written by a woman, because if it was I think that raises the issue of bias.   Or is it sexist of me to even suggest that?
I could spend the next eight or nine hundred words arguing this issue, squeezing most of the jokes out of it in the process. But frankly, its one of those messy social issues that doesn't really have a solution. It is what you call situational. If the woman is pregnant, or old, or looks tied, you should give up your seat. If the man is old or tired or pregnant, he should keep it. Men and the women are entitled to their own opinions about what is the decent and fair thing to do. Face it - the best that your generation can do is to stumble on, knowing you are making the same stupid mistakes my generation made, and our ancestors made, men and women, black, white, yellow and red, rich and poor, all the way back up the trees. There is enough blame to go around. It is best to remember that to say “People are just people” is not a compliment, an excuse nor even a conclusion. It is conundrum
Take religion: please. When we talk about religion, I think we are rarely actually talking about religion. It can be argued (I might say obvious) that true Christianity is incompatible with true capitalism. In fact to some degree all religion was invented as a response to the selfish short sighted greed of a true capitalist in full hoarding behavior. I'm sure religious fanatics in Ephesus threw the money changers out of the Temple of Artemis at least once or twice. And I'm sure they were arrested for it. Because that's why they did it – to get arrested. Its why the anti-abortion protesters crowd outside the clinics, today. And its why, if the police don't arrest a few now and then, they start shooting the doctors and nurses. They are seeking to provoke a response. It's why the Westboro Church in Topeka , Kansas demonstrates against homosexuals at the funerals of straight veterans. The publicity is the point of any public act. And public acts are rarely religious acts, even ones like anti-abortion protests.
Can you image how ticked off Jesus of Nazareth was when the Jewish cops did not arrest him after his monetary protest in the temple in Jerusalem? He wasn't trying to tick off the Romans. He was trying to get a response from the Jewish leadership. And if Jesus was a man and not God himself, then what he did may have have evolved over time, if he had been given any, but his motivations for doing it, would not have. Of course, if Jesus was not a man, but a God, then neither his motivations nor his acts themselves would evolve. And this is why I believe in evolution – because a universe without evolution never has a chance of getting better. And that is the end of hope.
We came down out of the trees two or three million years ago with a single set of emotional reactions to stimuli. The stimuli have change somewhat over the millennium, but we have not displayed any new responses to them. Not a one. Take Capitalism, please. I see it as a self fulfilling prophecy of a future shortage. As any first year economics student will tell you, hoarding is how you create a shortage. I may be hungry tomorrow, which is why I am hoarding today. But hording is only possible during periods of bounty. You can't hoard what you don't have. And bringing home other people's trash (or their money) and piling it up in your living room or your stock portfolio is how you become a hoarder. To put it another way, wealth to a capitalist is a form of comfort food, and if allowed to remain untreated, it spreads. A society controlled by and for hedge fund managers and bankers will become morbidly and morally obese.
This is why the true capitalist is sycophantic with a true sociopath. Sociopaths have feelings. But their feelings are always about themselves. And capitalists have a morality, but theirs must always show a profit. Any morality that is always profitable is usually false, because if it doesn’t cost you anything, you will support anything. It's like believing in free love when you are 18. You have plenty of hormones and energy, but no money. Of course you believe in free love. But when you get older and develop arthritis, free love becomes more of an obligation. Show me a forty-five year old committed to free love and I will show you a man either recently or about to be divorced.
And that is why a billionaire is, on the face of it, a bad thing. At that level of wealth, a million dollars to buy a few politicians is spare change. And since politicians can then make it legal for the billionaire to make another billion while stopping their competitors, spending a million to collect a billion is a thousand percent profit. And it suggests an addendum to John Action's phrase, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Lord Action added the sentence, “Great men are almost always bad men.”, which I agree with except, for Gandhi, and Jesus and Superman. But my addendum would be, “Greed makes you stupid.” And following the commutative  rules of social algebra, the greedier you are, the dumber you are, the fatter you are.
To a food addict there are never enough donuts. I know this is true as I have never had my fill of donuts. And to a wealth addict, there is never enough money in the world. Ask Mitt Romney, or the Koch brothers about this one. Knowing this, con men are constantly inventing new forms of money to tempt the money addicts, be it the futures market, the derivatives market or the “bitcoin”, or are as I like to call it the “Bite coin”, as in a fish biting on the hook. It's a fraud. Everyone knows it's a fraud. But you “bite” because the worm wiggling before your eyes looks so juicy and easy to swallow.
We have swallowed these hooks about once every decade since Ronald Reagan was elected President, producing one disaster after another, each worse than the one before - the savings and loan disaster in the 1980's, the dot com disaster in the 1990's, and the mortgage disaster in the 2000's. And my sense is we are right now swallowing another one. It turns out Karl Marx was right. Capitalism will bury itself, in donuts or bitcoins or derivatives or junk mortgages, or some other stupid thing, until the capitalists have all the money in the world and there is nothing left to buy. Which is, of course, the end of capitalism.
Now, that clashes with the Puritan concept called predestination, which held that God must love the wealthy, because he makes them wealthy, and in the modern context, the rich get richer because they know something you and I don't. Billionaires are the new Gnostics. They are smarter than us. We should follow their advice. But, of course, no true capitalist is going to tell us how to get rich, because they think of money as “their” money. That is how they got rich, by not sharing their money. That is how they stay rich. Following the advice of a true capitalist is like getting directions for an ocean voyage from a shark. The path they suggest invariably leads directly to their front door, and gets there just about lunch time.
That is why the journey of life never arrives at its destination because each generation changes the destination. Today we get directions from the shark, and tomorrow, if we are not eaten by the shark, from the minnow, until it grows big enough to eat us. The young (little fish) are optimistic, the greedy and selfish (big fish) are successful, the stupid (crabs) are violent and the old (walruses) are bitter. And most of those creatures reside inside each and every one of us. That's the way it is, folks. That's the way it has always been. As Pogo put it, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” Words to live by.
But for some dumb reason, we keep trying for “better”, to form a “more perfect union”: Because we keep being born, because of the constant need for optimists to make the world function. Retirement and retreat behind monastery walls or gated communities is not an indicator of a healthy or a wealthy society, as has been amply proven by the Dark Ages and Moa Zedong's Great Leap Forward, and early 21st century Florida. It is evidence of a culture that has turned into a cul de sac. We can't back up, so the only escape is to either go forward very, very fast, to smash through the backyard fence (a revolution), or slowly turn around and go back the way you came, but keep going forward. Those have always been and will always be our only choices.
What I am suggesting is that we stop refusing to fix anything until we cab fix everything in the entire world. That is so dumb it is ideological. And ideology always fails because everything always fails eventually, a reality that ideology was invented to deny. I am suggesting that we concentrate on just patching things up, plugging the dike, rather than trying to drain the ocean. I think the Bible even said something about this, lighting a candle instead of cursing somebody or something. Words to live by. Let the next generation do their own damn patching. What, are they too good to get their hands dirty?  It will give them something to do. Idle hands are the Devil's whatever, you know. Words to live by. It will give the lazy unborn punks some purpose to their lives. All you have to do is leave the world a little screwed up. We don't even have to tell them we are doing for their own good.
Listen: to insist on fixing the whole world in one fell swoop is an act of selfishness. And I think the “Me” generation has been selfish enough, don't you?
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