Enlightened Conflict

stamping out hunger … or incentive to work (and the middle class)

April 10th, 2014


 food stamps wtf

“When wealth is passed off as merit, bad luck is seen as bad character. This is how ideologues justify punishing the sick and the poor. But poverty is neither a crime nor a character flaw. Stigmatise those who let people die, not those who struggle to live.” —Sarah Kendzior





When you begin discussing food stamps or unemployment benefits or even minimum wage it seems to me that you begin wandering into the poverty discussion.

And then it suddenly becomes this slightly odd, and slightly disturbing, discussion swinging back & forth between basic sustenance to survive versus the ability to prosper type stuff … as well as … incentive to work or ‘do better’ in life stuff.


I imagine the issue is that discussing food stamps and any unemployment budget cuts crosses both ideological and the practical.

As well as opinion versus practical.




I keep using practical because while we invest a lot of energy debating theory <desire to work versus ‘sucking the system dry’> … practically … what we are discussing is a proverbial doom loop.


I recently heard someone said something like: “… food stamps <and unemployment benefits> drains them of their will and their incentive to make the most of their lives if America didn’t make cuts to food stamps <or slow the support system in some way>.”



The idea that actually having food could possibly drain the will of someone <in any way> is slightly absurd.




How about hunger motivating ambition?

That seems almost as absurd.




I would like to point out that something like 40% of households on food stamps have at least one person working.


I would also like to point out some basic truths about people.


courage doesnt always roarIn general … the majority want to work <or do something worthwhile in terms of productivity>. People like to ‘do.’



In general <if you do not agree with the first statement> I could suggest that America has a ‘shirking segment’ at both the top and bottom …. shirking work <yet … we seem to focus on the bottom>.


In general … an even larger majority are willing to do what it takes to not have to worry about how they can afford next week … let alone next day .


In general it is only a sliver of the population who takes advantage of the system <which implies they don’t want to really work>. It is foolish to believe one person <or a smaller minority> which may actually feel this way … or behave this way … defines the behavior of the entire group.



I admit I find it slightly shocking that this level of ignorance <or cynicism> is so common in America.


I would also like to point out that the highest food stamp amount a single person receives is something like $200 a month <you try living on that>.




Take a minute.


Divide 200 by 30. This is $6.66 a day.


Yet if I receive one more email touting that the poor were dining on prime filet steaks and lobster … or that all the unemployed were lazy unincentived-to-work couch potatoes … my head will explode.




I think I am surprised at how simplistically we address this issue <among others>.


We can take food stamps away … but in the end … someone has to pay for the food.


Me <being me> I will use children as an example.


According to census and government data from 2012, 22% of American children live in poverty and 16 million live in households that are food insecure food stamps food insecurewhich means one in five children do not have regular access to enough food.


In 2012, the No Kid Hungry Campaign surveyed more than 1000 K-8 public school teachers across the country with results that should give everyone pause.


–          Three out of five teachers reported regularly seeing children in their classrooms who come to school hungry because they are not getting enough to eat at home.

–          56% of teachers said that “a lot” or “most” of their students rely on school meals as their primary source of nutrition.

–          More than half of the teachers surveyed said they frequently purchase food out of their own money for hungry kids, spending on average $26 a month.


Around 30.6m lunches and 13.15 million breakfasts are served to kids on a daily basis.



And think about this.

Although the meals are heavily subsidized, with some kids qualifying for free meals and a smaller proportion for reduced price meals <40cents for lunch and 30cents for breakfast>, parents are still struggling to pay and defaults are on the rise.


A February 2012 survey carried out by the School Nutrition Association (SNA) found that among their members 53% of school districts were experiencing an increase in unpaid meals.


According to Diane Pratt-Heavner, a spokesperson for the SNA “it seems to be a lot of the families that are hovering around the threshold of poverty <that is families not poor enough to qualify for free meals but still too poor to pay the reduced rate> are the ones who can’t pay.”


Suffice it to say that a food stamp program isn’t a crutch but rather plays an integral role in basic sustenance for a shitload of people.


But … you know what?


We have a bigger issue.


We have an attitude issue.


Now, don’t get me wrong, poverty is a real issue.


But the perception of poverty <to middle class> has become a reality in many people’s minds. This is an attitudinal issue. By the way … this is as ‘real’ to people as the actual thing <scary but true>.


So this perception, while only a perception, makes it a real issue.


Government figures show one in seven Americans is food insecure.

According to Gallup, in August, one in five said they have, at times during the last year, lacked money <i.e., did not have> to buy food that they or their families needed. I do not need a Gallup poll to know that an even larger percentage feel they lack the money <i.e., believed they did not have> to meet the needs of their family <that is the attitudinal part>


By the way … just to get some politics out of the way … both figures are roughly the same as when Obama was elected.



This is not an administrative issue but a cultural issue.


However you want to discuss the topic of cuts or benefits … the question is not whether the vulnerable will be hammered … but rather by how much.


And poverty reaches into the heads of everyone at all income levels as a perception issue.


Middle class people feel like they could become poverty stricken at any moment.

Therefore. They are feeling like they are getting hammered too.


<so how sympathetic can you actually be to someone else getting hammered if your own head is getting bashed in>


In the past five years or so the middle class and the poor people have been getting slammed.


Slammed in terms of having less.

Less , in the case of middle class, may not be actual poverty but it FEELS like poverty to them because it is ‘less than I had.’


Overall the problem is the gnawing away of average living standards and coping head thoughtsspecifically how the effects hammer you even moreso the lower your income.


So maybe while real poverty is important to discuss and think about … in order to get everyone aligned attitudinally we should be thinking about a poverty attitude at all income levels <albeit the highest income ‘less than’ is ludicrous to anyone in another income class>.

What we seem to be ignoring is that this group … a large group … has simply fallen into a coping strategy.


In fact … I could argue that all of America has simply fallen into a coping strategy.


And as noted in a variety of business opinion papers I have written … coping is stagnant seeking and not growth seeking.


To make my point that coping is not effective attitudinally.


–          in Michigan black male life expectancy is lower than male life expectancy in Uzbekistan;

–          in Detroit black infant mortality is on a par with Syria (before the war).

–          over a period of 18 years, America’s white working class – particularly women – have started dying younger.



I shared that to suggest there are tangible outcomes to simply coping and we need to address the coping strategy as the issue.


Is this about equality or inequality? Or even the ‘haves versus the have nots’?


Not really.


This is attitudinal.

Attitudinal with real world behavioral repercussions.


It makes it simpler to focus it on poverty … and that is okay … as long as we recognize that poverty is a combination of reality <people focused on surviving life> and perception <people worried about surviving lifestyle>.


I also imagine it all harkens back to President Lyndon Johnson in a way.


He used lots of great words to express some insightful thoughts on this issue.


In attempting to help people out of poverty, Johnson realized that he was making American society more egalitarian by lessening the gap between rich and poor, but he did not see the action he was taking as detrimental to the wealthy.


His thoughts on solving the poverty issue were not a zero sum game … in which one group’s gains promised another group’s losses.


“Our history has proved that each time we broaden the base of abundance we create new industry, higher production, increased earnings, and better income for all.” – L.  Johnson


We should all have this attitude.


But it is difficult to do so in the USA because we have a slightly warped view on poverty.

<and I do not share this to not suggest poverty is real … just that we have a skewed perspective in the USofA>.


Poverty for a United States household of 4 is defined as annual income of $23,492.coping want life back

This is $2,000 MORE THAN the median household income for a family of 4 in … well <insert a big ‘gulp’ sound here> … uhm … Great Britain.



It is  fact that the amount of true poverty in the US is considerably less than in the EU. US is a prosperous nation.


However … the definition of poverty in the USA is far more generous than in the EU and grows annually.


I imagine I am asking that we should not confuse the definition of poverty with its reality.


Timbro <a Swedish economics research institution> published “eu vs us” showing how the various EU countries would rank in terms of prosperity if they were US states.

Pretty nearly the entire EU would rank about 45th to beyond 51st in terms of prosperity.

UK would rank 48th <along with Arkansas and Mississippi> and 55% of the British would be defined as living in poverty.


The analysis includes measures of material prosperity for “Americans living in poverty” and for ALL Europeans.

By most measures the average poor American has a higher standard of living than the average non poor European.


The US poor are more likely to own their own homes, have more rooms and living space, have more property, are more likely to own 2 or more cars, have an attached garage and have more household appliances, TV’s, computers, cell phones, etc. than the average “non poor” European.




That doesn’t necessarily refer to ‘poverty’ but I am attempting to give some perspective on what ‘poor’ is in reality.



I don’t believe it is important that we argue whether we feel impoverished or not but instead we discuss increasing abundance for all.



Things like food stamps … fighting poverty … using LBJ words … come down to a moral basis:


    “Because it is right, because it is wise.”


To me, attitudinally, we need to create a mindset of an America ‘in which every citizen shares all the opportunities of his society.’



I use these words in comparison to ‘citizens simply coping.’




There is a term called ‘soulless wealth.’


‘Soulless wealth’ is abundant wealth that remains inaccessible to all but a relative few.


Soulless wealth typifies a society divided between haves and have-nots.




I would suggest that soulless wealth is not just a tangible economic concept but one that resides in the minds of people … at all class levels and income levels.


Whoa … how can that be?


–          Those at the lower incomes who use <or abuse> the system to attain whatever wealth level they achieve is soulless.


–          Those at the higher levels who abuse the system to create abundant wealth is soulless.


–          Those in the middle class who, out of fear of poverty, use the system by whatever means to avoid the fear is soulless.


Soulless wealth, the issue, is attitudinal. And attitudinal at all income levels.


I say that because we talk about welfare and food stamps and unemployment benefits as if they are dollars and cents like decisions … and as we say those things we are avoiding the overall attitude of America.


The few talking heads who blather away on TV have lost touch.

They use soaring words of hope … and bow their heads when speaking of the despair of poverty … and then move into working hard and earning … and … well … they have lost touch.


The truth?


People are simply coping.


And coping means that all this other talk is irrelevant.



Here is the real deal.



For all the talk about ‘getting a free pass in life’ through handouts … most people know that Life is hard.


And they are okay with that.


It reminds me of a great scene in West Wing:

I never imagined at $55,000 a year, I’d have trouble making ends meet. And my wife brings in another 25. My son’s in public school. It’s no good. I mean, there’s 37 kids in the class, uh, no art and music, no advanced placement classes. Other kids, their mother has to make them practice the piano. You can’t pull my son away from the piano. He needs teachers. I spend half the day thinking about what happens if I slip and fall down on my own front porch, you know? It should be hard. I like that it’s hard. Putting your daughter through college, that’s-that’s a man’s job. A man’s accomplishment. But it should be a little easier. Just a little easier. ‘Cause in that difference is… everything.



People are willing to work hard.


coping and hoping They just ask for two things:


–          I don’t want to cope … I want hope.


–          I am willing to work hard … but could you just make it a little easier.



Unfortunately … there are some dollars and cents attached to this.


People are willing to work hard if they think they are getting a fair deal in return.

People are willing to work hard if they get a little help now and then to give them a breather.


By the way.


This isn’t about ‘getting something for free’ … this is about fairness and being the best you can be.




Coping sucks.

Coping isn’t fair.

Coping isn’t being your best.

Coping doesn’t lead to greatness.


But we have a coping economy and population.


That’s the issue.


That’s why people are so angry about perceived handouts and the so called ‘welfare state’ and things like that.


We all need to remember … poverty is neither a crime nor a character flaw. We should be less angry … be interested in refinding our soul <as we continue to seek some wealth – which is a good thing by the way> … and our leaders need to figure out how to get people to stop coping and start thinking bigger.



Before you get angry <on this topic>.


I do not begrudge anyone who is feeling like they are coping … but it would be nice if most of us kept coping in perspective.  Using myself to begin the perspective … I discuss poverty … and I certainly understand financial stress … but I doubt I, and many others,  do not truly grasp poverty.


I have never been in a situation where I was afraid I would starve to death while I worked to death.


Just think about that before you get too angry.

telling someone the truth (and aún aprendo)

February 22nd, 2014



“In a room where people unanimously maintain a conspiracy of tell the truth society ofsilence, one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot.” 



Czesław Miłosz







This is partially about me and partially about how I feel about telling someone the truth. And, maybe, just simply about communicating truth.




And the fact that truth can often not only sound like a pistol shot … but feel like you have been shot.


And because it is partially about me, and truth, I will begin with the infamous Michelangelo quote … said at age 87 I may add:



    aún aprendo

<I am still learning>





Please note Michelangelo said this in Latin and the one above is in Spanish.



I am humbly in good company.doing the right thing bravery


Because I am forever ‘still learning.’


At the same time I am still telling someones <anyone I can> the truth.


Personally I believe they are related.

Telling the truth and constantly learning. And I imagine I tell everyone that because therein lies some of the issue in telling the truth.





Why write about this now?



I have received enough emails about some things I have written lately that I wanted to explain why I think what I think … what I think about what I write … and how I think about truth and sharing truth <versus opinions>.




I have never been one for blowing smoke up someone’s ass <as well as I have always wondered what that phrase meant>. And this attitude extends not only to things that I say … but when I see & hear other’s blowing smoke up someone’s ass <particularly if they are doing it simply to make a buck>.




This attitude of mine has most likely not helped me in the business world. But in personal Life it has most likely established me as a ‘stand up guy.’ Kind of a nice alternative version of some degree of integrity.


I can live with that.




I started here with this sharing of thoughts because while I think most life coaches are simply snake oil salesmen, The Secret is a bunch of tripe, formulas for success are anything but successful and trying to figure out how to emulate greatness will lead you to somewhere other than something great … I believe people need to do whatever they need to do to get their head on straight to move forward in Life.


I write about stuff sometimes simply because I want to take as many blinders off as I can <I often do this under the nomenclature of ‘enlightening’>. I do this because I think if people could see Life a little more clearly see what we look for… without bullshit and smoke & mirrors … well … living Life is just not that complicated.




Life hurts some times.


Life feels great at others.



There are some valleys … and sometimes those valleys can get pretty deep & dark.


There are some peaks … and boy it is nice & bright & warm when you are there.


All that said.


When I see smoke … I try and blow it away.


Do I ever wonder if avoiding telling the truth to keep from hurting someone’s feelings is a better path?


Sure I do.



I believe any <and all> ‘truth teller’ has twinges of angst … all the time.


If they didn’t … they wouldn’t really be a truth teller … they would simply be opinionated fools <if not arrogant assholes>.


Comfort with honesty and speaking the truth for what it is … this version of candor … is a responsibility one assumes if you choose his path.


I would like to think it is an honorable path wherein we avoid the perils of false flattery or mistaken confidence in some special secret to Life <of which there is none>.




First … I have found that truth actually begins with being honest with yourself.


This may seem unusual given that I am speaking about telling the truth to others … but I tend to believe until you can be honest about your own weaknesses or share of the blame or biases… and even recognize your own ignorance <and can accept there is infinite to learn> you risk communicating a false truth which simply covers up your own lack of … well … something. Suffice it to say if you are not honest with yourself I sincerely doubt you can be accepted as honest to someone else.


And all that self reflection kind of suggests a self truth … being honest with ‘self’ is about knowing … and accepting … yourself … that includes the good and the bad.


And that also means accepting that ‘I am still learning’ is nonstop until your last day.


I tend to believe that this self reflection means that you are not only less likely to try to conform to other people’s expectations opinions but probably also lessens the need to lie at all.


The truest of true benefits of thinking <and acting> this way is consistency.


People already know what they can expect from you.tell truth frustrating




“As long as they’re telling the truth, and saying the things that you don’t ever want to have to say to another human being.”

Mark Ruffalo




Expectations becomes very very important because in the end a truth teller is weaving their way through … well … truth <note I did not say lies>.


In fact most truth tellers are doing their best to separate the truths into hard truths and soft truths … big truths and small truths … the truths that matter and the truths that don’t matter all that much.


And then deciding whether the more soft truths, the small truths, and the truths that don’t matter all that much … are not so important that they must be said.


And also deciding whether the hard truths, the big truths, and the truths that matter … are important enough that keeping them silent is actually a detriment to truth itself.


Anyway. That sounds painful when I reread it.


The real question becomes must painful truths always be told?




Surely not.tell the truth run



We always need to realize that you don’t always have to tell someone the truth if it will be painful. Sometimes, with an acquaintance or friend, when no harm will come to them, you can omit something or tell a smaller truth. I call this ‘no harm, no foul.’


On the other hand.


I have also learned to not beat around the bush and talk about a lot of other things first if you are actually going to tell the truth.


It only makes other people perceive that something’s wrong with what you are saying … and worse? That maybe you are not telling the truth.




Get to the point. The truth is the truth.


Find a positive if there is any … unwrap it from all the bullshit … and lay it bare.


Ah. That ‘point.’ Some people call a ‘bare truth’ the painful truth.





I don’t know.


I call it bare truth because it isn’t smothered in smoke.


While the bare truth may be stripped of any gray … it bears the burden of vivid colors and the sense of a sharpened knife swiftly moving toward you.


Paradoxically … this moment of truth often seems to slow time.


And, in that slow moment, the truth laid bare leaves the truth teller as unprotected as much as it may have opened up a wound in the receiver.


For telling someone the truth bears the burden of permitting the receiver<s> to respond … to ask questions.

This is the only way to even have a chance to come to terms with reality as a bare truth.


I know everyone says to be as specific as possible.



Here is the trouble with that.



Or ‘the gray.’ When discussing intangibles there is often no clear black & white.

So how do you specifically describe gray?


You cannot.


truth speakYou can only unequivocally state there is no hidden ulterior motive … that truth benefits them <even in just hearing it … even if they don’t accept or take action>.



Speaking of baring things.

Truth has a nasty habit of reflecting the fact most times, in speaking truth, you are rummaging around in someone’s life <personal or business … oh … which is personal too …> digging for the painful truth beneath some what is usually some fairly lovely <or attractive> lies.



I imagine that telling someone the truth is like most things … balance.

You have to recognize that the piece of truth you have pulled out while rummaging in someone’s life is a gift you uncovered … and it is not something that was owed you or given simply because you are someone who ‘tells the truth’.


As someone wrote … “on any given day I’d much rather be hit with ‘the hammer of truth’ than ‘the feather duster of truth’.”


Painful or not at the end of the day the truth is the truth … and most people much rather live a painful truth than a comfortable lie.tell the truth respect



Telling someone the truth has often got me in trouble.

Trouble in that the ‘pistol shot of truth’ doesn’t just lay bare truth … it ultimately is a bullet to kill what someone believes … or hope … or just has a strong feeling about.

Therein lies the pain.


Killing something is no less painful than being killed <in this case>.


Here is the thing about being a truth teller and willing to tell someone the truth.


If you have any soul or any desire to be good at it … you just … well … keep learning. Learning new things about the world … and maybe more importantly … about yourself.

“… if you want to know the truth of who you are, walk until not a person knows your name. Travel is the great leveler. A long stretch of road can teach you more about yourself than 100 years of introspection.”


You travel places or travel through knowledge and absolutely travel through ideas and thinking.

You know what traveling where no one knows you also teaches you?


We are all learning.

We are all pretty much doing the best we can.

We are all work in progress.


It’s good to keep this in mind in telling the truth.listen hand

All you can really do is … well … two things actually … listen & learn:



“The best decisions come from listening to ourselves”.




Listen to yourself.




aún aprendo



I am still learning.


What more could anyone ask of a truth teller. Truth rarely resides in the absolutes. In resides in the learning.


Telling the truth.

Like a pistol shot.

so it goes

October 20th, 2013

so it goes tattoo

“So it goes.” –  Kurt Vonnegut <Slaughterhouse 5>.


Which leads me to:


“Nature is neither kind nor cruel but indifferent.” – Richard Dawkins



Life is always interesting if you pay attention to what is going on around you.

Awhile back I was sitting at a bar somewhere on a Caribbean island typing away <and sipping a beer> and got a glimpse of two diametrically opposed views on life.


On one side of the bar was a young lady crackling with energy … perpetually dissatisfied with life … reading Slaughterhouse 5 … a new college graduate wondering what the hell she was doing working on an island.


At the bar was a young man bartender … pretty satisfied with a no stress life … a new college graduate wondering why the hell would anyone want to do anything but work on an island.


There was an instant dislike between them.

They sought different things out of Life.


I loved them both <at least once I figured out I could never ‘fix’ the bartenders view on Life and figured out how to show the young lady she didn’t need to prove to me she didn’t belong on the island>.


And I thought it was interesting that Life decided to throw Slaughterhouse Five into the moment.


Because while I believe Slaughterhouse Five suggests a moral view about war in that it can dehumanize us to a point of almost indifference to Life … I believe it suggests an even more important point.


While Life goes on almost indifferently … with a nonstop barrage of births, deaths, wins, losses, despairs, hopes, tragedies … and triumphs <so it goes … so it goes> … you can quite easily be an impassive participant … or you can choose to participate.


You can be indifferent to what is going on around you … and maybe even move on in some way <so it goes> and remain silent … albeit in a sometimes mind numbing world your silence may be simply self-defense … or you can participate <in Life>.


And participation can make a difference … not just individually but in totality.


And when combined with the Dawkins quote I thought of two things:


–          Survival <of the fittest> is written by the winners <just like history>.

–          I want to rewrite his quote to say “life” instead of “nature”




Survival of the fittest <or maybe the Survival of Life>.


There is survival as in … well … existing <the bartender> … and then there is survival as in winning <the young lady>. Both are definitely survival just different aspects.


And it is quite possible that how you define survival defines how you view Life … and what you want from Life.

And you know what?

While it may drive us crazy if we run into someone who defines it differently … we are no more right than they … or maybe they are no more wrong than us.


I also find the funny contradiction in that so many of us more experienced older folk view the bartender’s life with some envy … the perception of no stress or pressure and the ability to relax more often.

And the young, with all of Life ahead, views the same person with some disdain. Disdain as in ‘waste.’



So it goes.


Life is indifferent. Therefore it is we and our constant questioning of ideas and things that came before us which often defines how we view Life.

It is not always an easy or comfortable pursuit … but it is what makes the process of Life active in some form or fashion.


And in that idea the restful bartender and the restless young lady shared a commonality <although they couldn’t find it in each other>.so it goes silence


They both questioned what is.

They both thought about what will be.


They were simply coming up with different answers.


Stanley Kubrick said … The very meaninglessness of life forces man to create his own meaning.


All this questioning shows us a path to realize our life’s purpose.

Any and all of us <as I imagine I found it even in myself surrounded by this contradictory pair>.



It is extremely easy to attain an attitude of indifference in ourselves. Or what may look like indifference.


And in doing so to withdraw from the sometimes overpowering and overwhelming aspects of the world … and inevitably start seeking inwards. And within … we stay … while without … the world moves on.


The bartender oddly enough was quite articulate in his inward journey.


Reflecting upon the world and its many issues he quite easily came to the conclusion that the craziness <in which he had no desire to participate in> appeared to be mainly due to deterioration of value systems.


Everywhere he looked he saw see people filled with greed and intent on self-gratification.

He saw people ever willing to compromise on values to make personal gains.

Interestingly … his ‘so it goes’ attitude was … in his eyes … a version of ‘no compromise.’

In other words … he desired to remain true to himself <adamant in fact> … and feared he could not do so in today’s world. It is his own self defense mechanism.


As Billy in Slaughterhouse 5 says “so it goes” … the bartender’s life philosophy was “shit happens.”


And the power of ‘so it goes’ retains its glory not for the expression and passion behind the words … but the lack of.

These “world-weary words simultaneously accept and dismiss everything.

Unlike many quotes, the repeated ‘so it goes’ from Slaughterhouse-Five isn’t notable for its unique wording so much as for how much emotion <and lack of emotion> it packs into three simple, world-weary words …words that simultaneously accept and dismiss everything.

The three words neatly encompass a whole way of life.




The young lady and ‘so it goes’?


Shit happens, and it’s awful, but it’s not okay. We deal with it because we have to.


And dammit … she was going to deal with it. While the bartender stayed within as self defense … she was more than willing to go ‘with out’ … on the attack.

Somehow, someway, somewhere … she was going to deal with the world because … well … we have to. I am not sure she knew any other way of looking at it <and I imagine I gravitated to this energy and passion>.


She was restlessly dissatisfied with the world … and herself in way <in that she wasn’t an active participant at the moment> and she wanted to get in the game and ‘deal with it.’


She just didn’t know how yet.

She only knew working on an island and reading Slaughterhouse Five at a bar was not her way.

She only knew that the bartender’s way was not her way.


She had disdain for what she perceived as a blatant unconcern for life.


In the book … ‘so it goes’ follows all accounts of death in the book whether it is the mass death following the bombing of Dresden or the death of the lice and bacteria on soldier’s clothes as they are cleaned.


She saw ‘so it goes’ as a death to her dreams and desires and ambition.


She rejected it as she read the book.

She rejected it as she put the book down and heard the bartender say it without him actually saying the words.


I also found it interesting that <pulling from Slaughterhouse Five> that when a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse all they think is that the dead person is in bad condition in that particular moment … but that the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments.


The bartender saw dead people as simply in bad condition with better moments to come.

The young lady saw dead people as … well … dead. No life.


The bartender seemed to feel the “sheer helplessness, the total ineffectuality, of anyone caught up in such a massacre” expressed in the novel.  He saw only that Vonnegut realized that he could not effectively write about an event that made no sense in a sensible fashion and that things always have existed and will always exist.

He created some distance from this Life … as self-defense … the need to prevent and avoid suffering.



The young lady?

All she wanted to do was to start talking about values and ideas and anything but ‘so it goes’ and go out and shake the etch a sketch in the minds of people in some form or fashion believing it will do the world some good. She wanted to make a difference in terms of impact.


In the end … these two wonderful young people reminded me of one of my favorite quotes about finding the sweet spot balance in Life:


“We must learn to be still in the midst of activity and to be vibrantly alive in repose.” – Indira Gandhiso it goes humor and hope



Both of them were seeking their place in life as well as their life balance.


One was still in the midst of activity.


The other was vibrantly alive in repose.


Both have yet to reach out and tug a little on the other side of living Life to find the balance.


It is difficult to do so.

It is sometimes dirty difficult work to rethinking Life.

Equal parts ruthless self-reflection and some trite literary parables <so it goes>  all illustrating the challenging reality that trying new things … creating new beginnings … looking at things differently … is hard.



Growing up is anything but ‘so it goes’ … it is hard.


There are seemingly thousands of potential missteps that make for an epic failure and seemingly thousands of potential insights that make for epic success.

And in between are seemingly thousands of Life moments passing by indifferently but impacting your fate and future.


I imagine it all comes down to assuming responsibility for your own shit <Life>.


And it isn’t one path … or one way … and in fact a Life best lived is actually probably a combination of still in the midst of activity and vibrantly alive in repose.


What I loved about both of these young people was that despite the fact they were diametrically opposed in how they were living Life <and I imagine how they viewed success in Life> … they both adamantly rejected the politically correct tripe being thrown at them.


The one that says … “None of your problems are your fault. Everything bad in your life is somebody else’s fault. Blame the environment. Blame the educator. Blame your parents. Blame anybody else, but it’s not your fault. If you get in an accident, it’s never your liability. It’s always somebody else’s fault.”


They both rejected that tripe and clearly assumed responsibility for their own life.


In fact.

While viewing Life quite differently … they both wanted to change the world … albeit in completely different ways.



Young people.


They can often remind us that there are many ways of being satisfied … and positively dissatisfied <a state of perpetual dissatisfaction> … with Life.


And while Life may be indifferent … there are many many different ways to become involved in Life … and make a difference.


so it goes quotesAnd in the end?


The key to survival of Life <and the fittest>.


Be true to thineself.



So it goes. So it goes.

our souls only now awakening …

October 16th, 2013

“Our souls, which are only now beginning to awaken after the long reign of materialism, harbor seeds of desperation, unbelief, regrets soul-knows-what-to-do-to-heallack of purpose. The whole nightmare of the materialistic attitude, which has turned the life of the universe into a purposeless game, is not yet over. And yet, a weak light glimmers, like a tiny point in an enormous circle of blackness ….” – Vassily Kandinsky in 1912



Oh my.

I loved this quote from the moment I first laid eyes on it.

To be fair … I am totally going to misuse this quote … which was written about art. But if you are like me and do not know shit about art then you will be able to come along for the ride as I use it ignorantly … but in the way it spoke to me way beyond art.


It spoke to me in a way that explained the sense of desperation I sometimes hear people speak of when speaking of today’s world.capitalism desperate


About how so many people think that being materialistic and greed is the prevalent sense of ‘being’ throughout society … and the world .. today.


Oddly <just my opinion>.


I don’t really believe people think that way. Or maybe better said is that they don’t want to think that way. I believe the majority of people simply act in a materialistic mode because they sense there is there no other path available … if they don’t the other guy will and … well … they will get left behind and not get their ‘fair share’ of whatever the prize appears to be.

Let’s call it materialism survival mode.


Therefore the desperation I am talking about is truly a derivative of knowing that there is actually something is better. That materialism is a path with no real destination … in other words … as soon as you have what you have you want more.


We want better <most of us> than this.

Better just doesn’t seem so attainable these days.


In addition.

In the sense of desperation … or how I just wrote “who will stop the madness?” <  http://brucemctague.com/madness-in-the-world-armageddon-and-a-dose-of-reality   > I admit that I don’t hear people using words like ‘weak light glimmering.’


They just see darkness … and … well … madness in the world,



I see it.

I see the weak light glimmering.


I see it in people themselves <in how I described where I believe the desperation evolves from>.


I see it in generations <as in ‘turnings’ described by Straus & Howe and cyclical attitudes and behaviors over generations … i.e., we have been here before attitudinally>.


I see it simply as the evolution of capitalism <which is the basic economic model for materialism … although we should all note that ‘materialism ‘ is a human attitude & behavior wrought from within and not from without>.



The capitalism evolution is neither good nor bad … simply the evolution … and what is occurring is the natural friction that occurs during evolution <please note … I do not see this as ‘revolution’>.


I could also note that there is natural friction that occurs in any change … just that when an entire economic model creates friction it has some larger repercussions.


thinking dialectic crisisSo.

I decided to share Hegel and Schumpeter thoughts because it can possibly explain why there is a sense of desperation … or maybe a sense of uneasiness and why it is natural to feel this way.


I say this drawing upon Hegelian philosophy <thesis- crisis – synthesis> and ultimately Schumpeter who drew the basis for his thinking off of Hegel.

According to Schumpeter there is a natural process of creative destruction  within capitalism based on the affect the “cultural contradictions of capitalism” have:


–          The Process of Creative Destruction.


I)  Capitalism cannot be stationary.

It revolutionizes the economic structure “from within”, destroying what went before through a process of competition that affects costs as much as quality. Creativity in consumer goods, methods of transport, of production, systems of organization, search for markets and technology. It is a process that undermines traditional supports existing at a given moment, weakening its own system. Moreover, capitalism devitalizes the idea of “property” <the existence of great and small shareholders>.


*** He is simply saying that capitalism inevitably empowers anyone anywhere to build something … and as that is built something has to be destroyed <or replaced> to accommodate it. Capitalism encourages individual thinking and ideation and business building. Interestingly … it is actually anti-establishment and anti-‘maintaining the norm.’ There is no normal in capitalism beyond its ongoing self destruction and reincarnation.



–          II)  Rationality

Capitalism encourages rationality in behaviour. Rationality involves, on the one hand, the “maximization” of particular interests of individuals and groups, the use of the instrumental means in a coherent form, and in the same way a series of readaptations empirically controlled by a procedure of flawed -testing. On the other hand, rationalization rushes into both private life and cultural forms. Consumption wins against accumulation, diminishing the desireability of incomes above a certain level. At the same time, however, when the breaks of certain values associated with ethical or religious tradition fail (the sophrosyne), irrational components of behaviour that are critical for capitalism emerge and cannot be refuted with rational arguments, especially when based on long term considerations.



capitalism cynicism*** Capitalism is a constant struggle between the rational <let’s say ‘profit & dollars & cents’ in this case> and the irrational <let’s call this the ‘feel good’ intangible in this case> within people. It is interesting to note he suggests that money is a means to an end. In other words … you could earn a dollar a year and save only a dollar a year and be okay with that if you could consume <buy, eat, live to what you desire> whatever you wanted and needed. Regardless.  This constant struggle occurs and when it is perceived to be out of balance there will be friction as compromise is debated <and neither side wants to let go of what they have or what they think – which are often inevitably linked>.




III)   The Obsolescence of the Entrepreneurial Function.

Increasing difficulties for the classical function of management. Increasing importance of specialized groups. The context, moreover, has been accustomed to change and each time a greater number of factors are calculable. The success of business ends up in removing the owners.



*** He is not suggesting that entrepreneurship or small business becomes obsolete in capitalism. What he is saying is that capitalism inherently makes good small businesses into big businesses and as that happens they lose the ‘entrepreneurial function.’ In other words …. Capitalism encourages small to become big and in doing so they destroy what made them successful in the first place <and inevitably they are ‘destructed’ either from within or from without – by small business that destroys them>.




–          IV) Protecting Strata.

In the modern era there was a symbiosis between the nobility and the productive sectors. The former occupied the State organization, guided political decisions and supplied officials for the army (the bourgeoisie was only sometimes in charge of local administration). It was a sector that survived the social and technical conditions that produced it. In conclusion: the bourgeoisie is politically defenseless without the protection of non-bourgeoisie sectors, but capitalism, however, encourages the breaking up of the precapitalist framework of society.


*** Capitalism is most effective with a strong middle class and not a massive gap between the haves and have nots. Effective capitalistic societies will strive to reset when the gap is to large and there will be inevitable conflict/friction when this occurs.



–          V)   Intellectuals.

Characterized as those who exercise the power of the spoken and written word, they are used to not having any direct responsibility in practical matters and thus, they lack a direct knowledge of experience. They encourage self-conceived attitudes as “critical”, more from a logic of opposition, we could say, than from a logic of government. There exists a parallel between education and the scale of moral values in the intellectual sectors and the administrative or bureaucratic sectors against the values and technical criteria of the economic system as it operates.



*** I find it interesting that while Schumpeter is NOT discussing governmental structures <democracy, republic, socialism, communism> he gets right to the core of the issue in that inevitably officials who make decisions for the everyday person are most often not the everyday person nor do they think like the everyday person. Therefore the economic system may be operating at odds to what they believe is the right thing to do.



There you go.

Schumpeter uses these five arguments to discuss the process of what he calls ‘the self-destruction of capitalism.’



Self-destruction is not suggesting capitalism destructs as in ‘ends’ … but rather  that in its ongoing self destruction <or crisis in Hegelian terms> it recreates itself <synthesis> into something new.why things keep happening indexed



Now that I have written all this I can see why there is so much angst in the world today.


It doesn’t really matter whether it is a ‘natural conflict’ or not.

Conflict is conflict. It is friction.

And in this time and place it is friction upon friction.


Not only is the entire system being reshaped <as it is cracked and put back together again> but the generational attitude infrastructure is also in conflict.

What I mean by that is … the way people used to behave versus a desire to behave differently.


In the end.


Why are so many of us feeling uneasy … maybe even harboring some thread of desperation in what we see in the world today?


‘Our souls, which are only now beginning to awaken after the long reign of materialism, harbor seeds of desperation, unbelief, lack of light the way dont fight the darknesspurpose …’


Maybe our souls are simply awakening.




Who wouldn’t see a glimmer of light thinking that way?

recurring issues

July 18th, 2013

“The current generation now sees everything clearly, it marvels at the errors, it laughs at the folly of its ancestors, not seeing that this chronicle is all overscored by divine fire, that every letter of it cries recurring issues nostalgiaout, that from everywhere the piercing finger is pointed at it, at this current generation; but the current generation laughs and presumptuously, proudly begins a series of new errors, at which their descendants will also laugh afterwards.” ― Nikolai Gogol, Dead Souls


“A base nation crucifies or poisons its wise men, and lets its fools rave and rot in its streets. A wise nation obeys the one, restrains the other, and cherishes all.”  – John Ruskin



On occasion I like to remind everyone that we are not in unique times .. well … okay … not as unique as we like to make it out to be.

Remind everyone that the issues we face today … we have faced before.

And while we know that issues are recurring … they still naturally ebb and flow across generations so that as they arise … recurring from some inexperienced point in the past … they seem new to us now.


I could select gobs <that is more than a few but less than a gaggle> but let me highlight 3:

–          Government

–          Greed

–          Education


Issue 1: Government.

What about governments yesterday?


“I weep for the liberty of my country when I see at this early day of its successful experiment that corruption has been imputed to many members of the House of Representatives, and the rights of the people have been bartered for promises of office.” – Andrew Jackson


Ah. Today?

recurring problem govtWe experience the uncoordinated actions of a seemingly corrupted entity which we desire to be a well-oiled uncorrupted athlete.

Andrew Jackson in the early 1800’s weeps over the corruption of congress. Concerned by how holding the position in office often meant not holding the rights of the people first and foremost.


Government is always in a tricky position.

They are elected by the people to not always the people insure they get what they want … but rather get what they need. We elect, and select, leaders to make decisions with regard to the ‘best interest’ of us. And, yet, nowadays politicians seek to gain the elected position simply by promising to the people voting … what they want.

I could argue that our political system claims to be a democracy when in fact it is closer to what Schumpeter suggested was an Elite democracy <pessimists may call it a version of oligarchy> but I will not. We have a democracy … flawed … American … and ours.

We currently appear to have a congress where it appears that most of the elected representatives do not serve the best interest of the people but rather to themselves and their political directives <and support … which inevitably leads to some type of corruption>.


This has happened before.


There is getting votes. And then there is getting respect. And respect always comes down to actions … the deeds of those who have been elected by the people.

Today, yesterday … tomorrow. Doesn’t matter.

Corruption will always tempt those who seek leadership positions.

Power will always tempt those who seek leadership positions.

Some will succumb to temptation.

Some will not.



There has been some relatively recent research done to show a trend in many of the largest First World democracies of the growing mistrust of the government <and PewResearch has ongoing surveys to support aspects of the trend>.

While in the 1950’s ¾ ‘s of American would say that they trust in their government to do the right things that number declined to just about 40% by 2004 (Wilson/DiIulio 2007) and interestingly <to make a point> it hovers around that number in 2013.

This research showed an ongoing belief of American citizens that the political system is unlikely to respond to their needs and beliefs. This is also sometimes referred to as political efficacy.

Political scientists measure this political efficacy where political efficacy consists of two parts:

–          internal efficacy – the belief that to be able to understand and take part in politics

–          external efficacy – the belief that the system will respond to the citizens


While most studies show now significant change in Internal efficacy in the United States, external efficacy has been steadily declining since the mid-1960’s (Wilson/Dilulio 2007).


All that said.

This is a recurring issue. Most likely no worse nor no better than it has been at certain points in the past. I say this just to suggest governmental Armageddon is not upon us. It may be frustrating. It may be aggravating. And it is certainly not good for the citizens who want shit to not only get done … but get done correctly. But it is an ongoing issue.

In the end governments will always be a recurring issue because … well … it is about a group of people <not some intangible concept called ‘government’>.

And while recurring … we <the people> can always do something to make it less worse if we elect to <pun intended>.



And separately.

Separately so as to insure I am not suggesting this next topic is associated with the politician thought I just shared … people and greed.


Issue 2: Greed.greedy selfish fools

I could have called this ‘the desire for “more.”

More money … or the accumulation of more … however you define wealth.


“It has always seemed strange to me… the things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest, are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.” – John Steinbeck


“A man is usually more careful of his money than he is of his principles.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson


What an issue.

I will begin by saying … “quod satis est” <what is enough>.


Greed is more likely an ongoing societal distinction between indulgence versus overindulgence, indulging or decadence or “quod satis est” <what is enough> …  in the end … it doesn’t really matter because it is simply a discussion on what is pure decadence – or greed – and what do we actually deserve as people.

I imagine it is also a discussion on what Horace <who discussed ‘what is enough’> or what has also been suggested as ‘the hollowness of unparalleled prosperity where we need to recognize the unacceptable limits <on prosperity> and finding some sanity in enough.’


Schumpeter suggested <among some things I don’t agree with> that “moral poverty lurks within capitalism.”

I do like this thought.

It isn’t that capitalism IS moral poverty but that within capitalism LURKS the possibility of moral poverty.


What that suggests is that there is a constant battle between prosperity and morals.


And I agree with that suggestion.


I believe that is the battle we face day in and day out.

We face it today … we faced it yesterday … and we will face it <as a group of humans interacting> tomorrow.

So with that said … I state unequivocally that ‘greed’ does not rule <despite the fact I see a shitload of people suggesting that greed is leading to all the issues we face>.

Greed, among the few … a minority, will always be in constant battle with the majority who is constantly fighting against moral poverty.

That is life.

That is economy.

That is society.

That is our salvation as a society and groups of people interacting … this ongoing conflict.

recurring issues thinking-dialectic-crisisI read somewhere <I apologize to the original source> that this ongoing conflict can be captured in two key aspects:


–              1. Perversion of capitalism

Capitalism is a living breathing organism. One in which some microbes fight with corrupted intent to pervert the overall organism. The organism also has other microbes which are healthy and can sometimes even attack and destroy the other bad microbes. Corruption should not, probably cannot, kill capitalism. For capitalism itself can kill corruption.

This is kind of my poor medical organism version of Schumpeter’s thought on creative destruction.


–              2. Cynicism of external factors

Perversion of the system aside … if our perception is that the system is rigged by the few perverted … we become cynical. We lose optimism. We maybe even get angry at the perverts <sorry … couldn’t resist>.

I am certainly not suggesting the American ideals are not solid and intent unequivocally sound … or that all Americans are wasteful and perverted <morally> or that every shred of what made America great is gone. At its core America remains a place of possibility and hope. I say that despite the fact people have become quite cynical. Cynical not only about the system but also about their hopes on whether they can succeed and prosper within the system. This has become a deep and increasingly entrenched cynicism. At its worst this cynicism translates into an overall cynical with regard to what it is to be America <which includes, but is not solely, capitalism> and an American <interestingly … I actually could say this about many countries and their citizens as I scan the map today>.


This deep cynicism is important and relevant because it affects <either directly or indirectly> our day to day behavior coinciding with, or against, our virtues <moral compass … ethics>.

And that matters because non-virtuous behavior, or vice, leads to an overall ideology of “putting profits before people.”

This can be manifested in a variety of ways: by taking imprudent and excessive risks with other people’s money; by selling products and services that harm consumers, families, and society; and by engaging in outright fraud. Today, of course, we are suffering from all of the above.


We have experienced this before. There was certainly an overall decay of moral integrity that proceeded both the current recession as well as the Great Depression. Remember that the 1929 stock market crash and the ensuing Depression was precipitated by a decade called ‘the roaring ’20s’ … a prosperous decade marked by materialism and lack of moral discipline. It was certainly a period in business where leaders and organizations certainly ignored legal restraint and had little, or no, regard for accepted rules or standards.

What is currently glibly being called ‘greed’ is actually a combination of vice, virtue and materialism all in a battle against moral poverty. These are all recurring aspects and dynamics of civilization itself.



Without getting too theoretical on the dynamics of civilizations and culture … suffice it to say that today we are a society of indulgers and accumulators.

A significant population … while feeling stretched or challenged economically … is actually rich beyond belief in terms of what is available to all of us 24 hours a day.  We are seemingly continuously seduced by the urge to acquire … and acquire more … and indulge <when the opportunity arises>.

I don’t have anything against it. And I certainly understand the psychology of ‘once you have something not only do you not want to not have it anymore … but you want more’ <or the next step up>. You may stop and think a little about why it is we can’t stop wanting more or why there’s never enough stuff … but don’t invest the energy … it is simply part of human nature.

Money leads to lifestyle upgrades. But, once again, that is fraught with conflict. Psychologists call it ‘hedonistic adaptation.’

Once you achieve the income you desired … well … you go back to desiring more.


In the end on this topic.

I would suggest that the recurring issue is not really greed <albeit that is an easy target for us> but rather ‘hedonistic adaptation.’

Our natural adaptation to having more … is to wanting more <and invariably expecting that the ‘more’ we currently have is what we deserve>.

Hedonistic sounds horrible.


That makes it a recurring issue … some people … despite innate human behavior patterns … just don’t want to think and do horrible things. Therein lies the ongoing conflict.



Issue 3: education

Yes. Even education is a recurring issue.


Aristotle said … “the education of the citizens in the spirit of their constitution. Sadly, one which nowadays is generally neglected.”


I believe I could simply stop here by making the point that if Aristotle was bitching about education back in his day & age … this may be the ultimate recurring issue.

The proper education of our youth is a tangled discussion with multiple paths to the same good destination <what is best for our youth>.

Suffice it to say the discussion most often revolves around preparing someone for a profession <contributing economically rather than societally> versus preparing someone for Life & contributing to society not just economy <and the practical balance between the two>.

Skew it toward profession and we end up with technically qualified people less enlightened in social responsibility.

Skew it toward Life and we end up with socially enlightened people not qualified to actually do anything.


Education of the young is always about challenging and growing the mind so that they can be productive … in Life and within the economy. We want adults to be balanced so we need to educate kids from a balanced perspective.


Now. The web has changed some aspects of education from a balance standpoint.

While many people are pushing education toward a more pragmatic/practical direction <specifically preparing young for professional practical jobs> the web is actually challenging education to become more societally knowledgeable.

In the not too distant past world view of the majority in a community was measured in mere miles. Opinions and views were driven from a local if not regional purview.

Today? Opinions and views are measured from a global perspective. The kid down the street can know as much about what is happening across the ocean as they do in the street off the next road. This means local opinions & views are being challenged more and more <which creates some different issues for older generations but that is a different post>.

That said … the role of social consciousness, and capitalism <or the professional aspects> within an education system has been debated for centuries. Even good ole Al Einstein weighed in:


“Unlimited competition leads to a huge waste of labor, and to that crippling of the social consciousness of individuals. This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.” – Albert Einstein


Well. Capitalism shouldn’t cripple individuals. And it doesn’t. In and within itself it can be motivating and positive to the growth of individuals <and society> and it is part of our growing up education to understand this.

Balance is the key.

Education creates the foundation for good productive citizens. Citizens part of a whole. To be whole is to be part.

Education will always be a recurring issue because we will always debate balance <and people are involved>.



So those are the big 3 recurring issues I see … or rather the three I decided to focus on out of the gobs I could have.


And we maybe should note that these issues are eternal.

Not because they are issues of systems and processes and programs <albeit we act like they are because they are tangible> they are issues of people and minds and thinking. Therefore they are recurring sources of conflict amongst people.


We may elect to focus on government.

Or on businesses.

Or on the education system.


Inevitably we are debating ideology.

And … well … the future.

And why is it all so important?

Heck. Mostly because we are talking about our kids and future generations. We may couch it all in “what I want” and “what is best for me” and “what is fair for me” but inevitably, deep down, we recognize that these discussions lead to outcomes that affect far beyond ourselves.

It affects <in a big picture way> the viability of our countries <regardless where you live> but more importantly it affects the little people <children>.recurring issues why because


In the end.

It was philosopher Leszek Kolakowski that said “civilizations cannot live in despair.”

Recurring issues rarely, if ever, become Armageddon issues because inevitably we people seek to find an optimistic interpretation in the despair itself.

Something good comes from the bad.

Learning from the failures of the system.

We seek to NOT live in despair.


No matter what country you are living in as you read this I would suggest that we seek a wise nation obeys the wise, restrains the fools, and cherishes all who make up the nation.

Enlightened Conflict