Wednesday, May 13, 2009

This is How we Fight this Fight! Or The Deranged Sheep

I have been wondering more and more lately if I am simply an angry, cynical old man in a young (39 is young - my mind is young) man's body?

My life seems to be getting better, I am happier, more content, simpler than I have been in years, maybe decades.  At the same time I can't help but feel tirelessly indignant at what I see happening in the world "out there".  There is no question that I have been influenced by years and years of "media" and that, now, looking back it's kind of terrifying to see the things I did, ate, said, believed etc that were so incredibly short sighted or ignorant.  I mean if I think of myself as a magnificent human creature, the only creature on this entire earth with the ability to reason and make choices based on my sensory input, IF i am really that creature - what the hell was I doing eating double cheeseburgers, corn dogs, large milk shakes and a quart of fries at Al's all those years (it tastes so good...right).  That's just an example.  Another example would be, if I am supposed to be this magnificent product of nature - why the hell do I love to vegetate watching movies, TV, sports...any of that? 

I guess my point is, as I look back on the way I grew up and what I was taught and as I look around me today at what I see our children being taught and what I see as the example we are setting in the world, I can't help but be dismayed that, to borrow a cliche...I was born a wizard (we all are) in the greatest social experiment ( The USA) in the history of mankind and all I got was this lousy tee shirt.

An old acquaintance and friend made a comment on my site - one of few but hopefully the beginning of bunches - and he questioned whether or not we were all just being a bit too hard on the good ole US of A.  I have to thank you, Kirk for bringing up something that I have been thinking about as well.  

How do you fight this fight?  Don't we have it pretty good here in the US, especially when compared to other countries?  How do you motivate or even reach people here in the US to stand up and take notice of what is happening when they are (both of them) working 50-60 hours a week simply to get by?

This is the essence of the problem.  

And this is what I think about it:

1-We have it better in the US than any other place on earth.  Our standard of living alone is enough to demonstrate that point and it's a point that needs to be brought up and talked about and celebrated.

2-Can you imagine how we got to #1, above?  How did we arrive here at a place where we enjoy such high standards.  Where we can turn a faucet and water comes out, where we can (at least some of us) access life saving health care, where we have the freedom and time to even discuss these things.  When I imagine all it took to provide today's generations with the lifestyle and processes (government) that we have today I cringe at what I perceive to be a disconnect between the effort that was put in in the past to raise the US to it's current level and the current behavior of most everyone today both inside and outside the government.  It feels to me like we were given greatness and we have settled for comfort.

I think that we have a responsibility to our history and to the people who fought so hard to allow us to blog at 10pm on an expensive piece of equipment from the privacy of their home, their warm, dry home.  I think that the fact that we have it better than anyone else on earth is a direct charge that we must act in ways that are consistently better than anyone else on earth.  All our freedom (that is so quickly eroding) is due to someone else's efforts and I think that effort demands our respect and requisite action.  Because of our position we must be better, because no one else on earth has the ability to contemplate, to investigate, to challenge, to overthrow, the educate...because no one else on earth has this ability - it is only and specifically and poignantly up to us.  And I feel like we are doing the exact opposite.  I feel like we are taking our freedom, we are taking what we have been given for granted and simply saying...leave us alone, let us be, we can't be involved we work too much, let someone else do it, I have to watch TV...

I generalize.  But do I?

And this brings me to another cornerstone point.  In a society like we have, or at least on what the model was supposed to produce, it seems antithetical to me to have our workforce, our families so completely tied to labor.  It seems that all we do now is work to live.  I give no quarter for those that overspend...and there are millions upon millions...but what factors, I mean REALLY WHAT FACTORS go into a system that demands SO much of it's people.  There is no time for family.  We were not created or born or beamed or work!  Of all the purposes of human life, work is not a primary and yet it seems to be all we do and when you begin to look into it there are many more reasons than simply careless overspending that keeps us tied to our jobs, unable to quit, unable to think about what is really going on in the world, unable to spend as much time as necessary with our children.  The forces at work here are many, huge, and small - things like inflation, taxes, government/corporate collusion...I can't remember the last time the government really did anything that I would have done if I was the government.  I mean really...and when you think about it - what's more incriminating is that the system we are living in doesn't foster leisure, it Markets it to us to buy and sell like some sort of commodity - but it doesn't support doesn't support time away from plys more and more on top of us, like the mechanism that it is. 

People are not on this earth to work, only.

So how do we fight this fight?  How do we address that slow, suffocating feeling that stays in the background, behind our smiles or our anger at the last Sox loss or the flat tire or the job loss.  How do rise above the fray to look at the true symptoms of our lives?  

Kirk said that we may have to have a tyrant or a despot before we get angry enough to stand up...and he may be right - it's my fear that we already have one - it's just not the one we were looking for.  It's not the wolf in sheeps clothing...but the derranged sheep we need to fear.  What if we have our despotism now?  What if by the time we get angry enough to stand up there isn't anything to stand up for?

I think that if we have the best system in the world we should demand the best from it, not accept mediocrity.  If we have the ability to question our leaders, why not do it now?  If we have the ability, now, to get answers, why not demand answers.  After all this government is one OF THE PEOPLE and any legitimate government OF THE PEOPLE must respond to the people, right?  What does it mean if our "government" won't respond to us?  What could that possibly mean?  And what will it mean for our children and theirs?  And what will it mean to the memory of all those who never watched a TV or ate at Macdonalds or drove a car or had an MRI?  We have the best because someone laid the foundation, what are we going to do with it?

So I guess the way I am going to fight is to start asking more questions.  To stop being afraid that people will think I am some kind of nut because I don't like the way things are going.  I am going to stop beating myself up about being a cynic and instead investigate why it is I think the way I do and begin to measure the data that I get.  I am going to look at more balanced data and not get my information from one source, meaning the main stream media.  I am going to start exercising my freedom instead of just enjoying it and I think, that way, I may enjoy it more.


Anonymous said...


Kirk said...

Just to clarify what I meant, or maybe I should say, what I mean, because I'm kind of making this up as I go along. While I do think we have it pretty good in the US, I don't mean that we shouldn't be critical.

When I said I think we have it pretty good, I meant that, in general, the government is cheating us less than many other governments in other countries. It's well documented that the federal government spends way too much on way too many things it shouldn't, and this is particularly evident these days, but my overall sense is that other governments are worse in many ways. I have no real figures or analysis to back this up, it's just my sense of things, which could easily be completely amiss. I know you may find it hard to believe, but to me it seems that there is a level of accountability in the US that is just not present in other countries, for example, Spain.

Also, I don't think pointing to our standard of living is all that useful as evidence of American greatness, for at least two reasons. First, beyond survival and normal development needs (i.e., food, clothing, transportation, education, reasonable entertainment, etc.), the rest is fluff. I want it, too, but I don't think you can measure a nation's greatness by its ability to provide commodities that create, to borrow your metaphor, sheep. Secondly, my sense (again, not based on careful study of things on my part) is that a lot of our wealth has been created by unjustly dominating others. It's quite clear that various US administrations have been involved in undermining democratic movements in other countries and setting up autocratic ones. Did this serve US interests in terms of cheap goods for its citizens, and in other strategic ways? Yes. Is this the way a democratic nation should act? In my opinion, no. But again, maybe if I'd been President, the US would have been taken over by some other nation or collapsed in chaos.

I think you're right on when you mention how much people have to work. For me, the most fundamental problem in this area is the need to work to get health insurance and/or pay medical bills. I can't tell you what a relief it is to live in a country with a socialized medical system. Is the system as good as the American one? Not even close. But if I'm out of work, I and my kids and anyone, even tourists and refugees, can get medical care. At some point, I'd like to move back to the US, but frankly, one of my biggest concerns is being able to provide continuous medical insurance for a family of five.

Beyond the issue of medical care, it's just so easy to get caught in the consumerism. Don't get me wrong, that exists here and I'm sure everywhere as well, but it's a special kind of madness in the US. Has the government been involved in this? Perhaps, but I think the fundamental responsibility for this lies with us. The issue is much more complicated than this, of course - the millions of people who have low-wage jobs, for example, or the kids who live in hunger - but in the end, many of us are the ones who let themselves fall into the trap of always needing more, or the latest, or whatever's new.

After writing all this, I realize that that's the place where I've begun the fight.

damon said...

The crux of it for me, because I, as well, am "making it up" as I go along is what to do.

What to do. What does a person who has opposing values to those that he sees in the world, whether close to home or far, whether by "government" or by people. What does this person do?

I think the first thing that needs to happen is engagement with others no matter what their values for the purpose of education. What is happening here is a prime and powerful example. My thoughts and ideas have become more clear to me thanks to interaction from you - and seemingly vice-a-versa.

Here's what it really comes down to for me when I try to get down, down, down to the base of it. Where can I have the greatest effect towards creating or celebrating what I value in the world?

And when I try to get to the foundation of it I see two more, seemingly opposed, forces...I am now talking specifically in my back yard (The US). I see the people and the government. I am in complete agreement that it is the people who have made the ultimate choices that have led, dragged, pushed, to where we are today. It is not the government buying the big macs and the flat screens. I love your comment on the "special madness" that is consumerism in the US. I think it speaks exactly to the nature, the nature of madness that has, in my opinion, pervaded so many other areas of our lives here.

When I think of the madness I see and feel I can't help but wonder about its source. And when I think about its source I can't help but think that people, individuals are not born mad, this madness is learned (read taught) behavior. When I think about my values and how they have evolved as I have, for whatever reason, luck, effort, association, I feel fortunate, more...I feel responsible. I want to celebrate growth, personal growth, individual growth because I believe it is the "head cornerstone" of a healthy human and that a healthy human is the corner stone of a healthy society. The responsibility I feel is primarily to myself and comes in the form of recognizing where human growth, in my opinion, originates from and the realization, for me, that human growth doesn't originate with a foreign body.

When I think about how I can best effect the change I want to see in the world I look closely at what is all around me and I see long arms, both thin and thick, both insidious and obvious of this thing that we call "government" (this is probably not as broad a term as needed here). It is everywhere, in all of our daily lives. I am just beginning to recognize how much it (gov) dictates to us. And this seems so illogical to me on the most basic level and seems to be the exact opposite than both the intent and, for me, the desire of government.

I look around and see so many people with so few options because of what I perceive as almost complete government absorption in our lives. It feels to me as if things have shifted and if once it was, perhaps, the people who, through government, where driving the ship - this may never have been the case or at least not in our lifetime or even for generations - it is now "government" that is driving. And that to me, although it may be the rational product of the our choice over time, remains a terrifying concept and one with very little light or growth.

Sadly I think, and I would so much love to be wrong, that many, many people are fine with their comfort and consumerism. Personally I find it difficult to battle the effects of my choices, as I have become more conscious of my effects (my choices) going forward. I look around and see restricted options for everything and I see most arguing about content instead of process.

I see the "government" (again, to small a word but a general representation), maybe more accurately, the system that the "government" is perpetuating as the the first problem to solve; almost like we need to pry the lid off the top and allow sunlight to reach underneath...the irony lies in the fact that once the lid is pried off we will have a nest of problems to address as humans living in a society that have not been addressed for how long? However gloomy this may sound, the opposite, leaving the lid in place an option I want or choose to pursue.

Most things, I find, that people argue about or protest or love are content and, I think, distraction from the essence of the problem. And I guess that brings me to define what I think is the problem - which is something I didn't have when I started this comment - The problem for me is that what the United States means to me is in direct opposition to what I see the United States doing or how I see it, us, being in the world.

Because I think that people, individual humans, are the source of every greatness and sorrow ever achieved in history (how could it be otherwise) I believe in complete and un-compromising freedom of spirit, action and thought. The United States, in my opinion, for the first time that I know of, offered a way for humans to not only realize and express their brilliance but to also live together with the ideal that it was the expression the "pursuit of happiness" that was the ultimate glue of the society. The documents formed and the ideal behind the United States rings so joyously to me as a beacon for humanity and the expression of humanity that to see how "we" express ourselves both as a people and a nation today is revolting (and occasionally beautiful). However it is, to me, becoming more revolting and less beautiful every day, although I feel a change, I feel people waking up, I am waking up (and I thought I was awake).

How do I help support and celebrate the values I feel for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness...I look first at the best example and then I look at how it is failing. And then I take action.

Kirk said...

Your writing is making me think, and the sincerity behind it is what keeps bringing me back. I absolutely agree that madness is learned/taught. And sorry it's been awhile, but it's hard for me to keep up with work and three young kids.

I've only been able to skim your posts from Jekyll Island, but shit, I had no idea that the Federal Reserve was a private entity. It's ridiculous, or even sinister. I don't think I've ever used that word, but it's what comes to mind. And I suppose the Fed is just the tip of the iceberg.

Can you say more about how the government has constrained you, how it limits your freedom? I guess what I'm asking for is something similar to your post that was an analysis of the development of your resistance to authority. I'm wondering if it's something you experienced during your time at Nectar's, or does it predate that?

damon said...

I am glad for your post and the continued dialogue. I am publishing a summary of the Jekyll Island experience by 5pm today. There was so much info it was important to me to organize it as best I could and get it down.

You are right on about the Fed being sinister and I think what you mean is the very idea that there would be a private corporation in control of the only flow of money for our country AND the idea that it would be so "hidden" to the people is what makes it so sinister. If you follow this thinking it doesn't take long to begin asking questions about everything else.

I have always been a happy contrarian, masking my dislike and contempt for authority (for good and bad) in my smile and my sports and my communications with others...I think that I simply have or have had a belief that these things I feel are only temporary, that the people who are in "charge" won't let things continue the way they are going. I could never quite grasp the insidious-ness of the whole thing until I achieved and age of perspective where it became clear that I was wrong, that things have gotten worse, meaning that authority is now the answer to all and individual freedoms are taking the hit.

My experience with Nectar's only helped to cement my understanding of the nature of the government and the people in government today. It didn't take too long to grasp that essentially the system has evolved towards what I can only described as comfortable slavery. I don't take that word lightly so I invite you or anyone to question the validity about it.

The point simply was that we, my wife and I, were working for "The State". Every month we would spend a significant amount of time filling out required paperwork essentially paying in both labor and dollars to have someone that didn't know our business (and didn't care) regulate us. The shocker was that when we wrote the checks a typical month would be - Vermont State - $15,000 (tax on food and beer), City of Burlington - $2.500 (city tax on food and beer), Feds - ($15,000 - tax on SS, Medicaid, FICA and payroll tax of 25%) and Damon Brink - ($4,000 - owner compensation). So whether I believed in government regulation or not the hard fact was the business I was working paid out more than $30,000 per month to my $4,000 per month. At that level it didn't matter if I thought there should be anarchy in the streets or if some form of regulation was ok, maybe necessary - it didn't matter because the mechanism was so skewed.

I began to realize that this was a main reason that so many people had so little time to pay attention to what is going on. Everyone is working so hard and paying so much attention to trying to do whats best for their family while satisfying the requirements of this system. I began to further understand that any system that required this type of imbalance to exist was a troubled and broken and maybe even intentional system...It helped me to motivate to the next step, which, really was the Jekyll Island experience...