Enlightened Conflict

persistent setbacks

May 10th, 2017

 setbacks persistent alone

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“We all have a personal pool of quicksand inside us where we begin to sink and need friends and family to find us and remind us of all the good that has been and will be.”

 

—-

Regina Brett

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“Making the best of things is… a damn poor way of dealing with them.

My whole life has been a series of escapes from that quicksand.”

 

—-

Rose Wilder Lane

 

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Well.

 

We all encounter setbacks in our lives. Some people call that ‘life.’

 

setback speed bumpThe positive psychologists just call the setbacks “obstacles” as if they were some hurdles you just learn to either leap or get around.

 

In other words … it is assumed if you stick to your guns no setback is a dead end but rather simply a speed bump.

In other words … we are offered some simplistic discussions about overcoming obstacles.

 

If you really really think about this … this advice is kind of nuts.

 

Yeah.

You may have to think really hard to come on to my side of this argument.

 

You may have to work hard because as soon as you are old enough to comprehend words you get bludgeoned with advice and wisdom with regard to ‘overcoming obstacles.’

 

In its most simplistic form it is uttered as “if you believe, you can overcome anything” or even the famous “it’s not the mistake that matters it is what you do with that mistake.”

 

You get pummeled with things like this:

 

===============medication over medictaion problemsolving2

“Do not fear the conflict, and do not flee from it; where there is no struggle, there is no Virtue.”

 

Joyram

 

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When you start living the life of your dreams, there will always be obstacles, doubters, mistakes and setbacks along the way.

 

But with hard work, perseverance and self-belief there is no limit to what you can achieve.”

 

Roy Bennett

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Well.

 

I don’t doubt the sincerity of this advice but what all of this trite wisdom, mostly offered by wealthier & whiter people whose setbacks are slightly different … okay … exponentially different, then not only the everyday schmuck but those who are in more vulnerable environments seems to overlook is that A setback is manageable … persistent setbacks are a whole different game.

 

I love virtue but after a while you cannot sustain yourself, mentally and physically, on virtue alone when faced with persistent setbacks.

 

What I mean is that we treat setbacks as if they were like a cold … with a little time and some fortitude and some chicken noodle soup you can overcome it and move on.

 

But sometimes setbacks are like a virus … this virus is more like ‘persistent setbacks.’

 

setbacks persistent quicksand

 

And, yes, this is different than what I call “quicksand” or “quicksand setbacks.”

 

Quicksand setbacks are more often in a defined period of time and comes to fruition mostly in a helpless unraveling before your eyes.

It’s like in a football game where one fumble leads to an interception which leads to the other team running a punt back for a touchdown. Everyone fights as hard as they can … but the setbacks stream in a way that drives you deeper and deeper into a hole. Most times quicksand setbacks stop and depending on the quicksand you are in a deep dark fucking hole or just a hole <or something in-between>.

 

A hole is a hole. It sucks.

But most times if you do get your shit together, get your head on straight and maybe get a little help you can get out of the hole <regardless of how deep it is>. And once you get out of a quicksand hole you actually find you have learned some stuff and … well … most times you see future quicksand and avoid it.

 

 

And then there are persistent setbacks.

 

problems overcoming obstacles

….. and, yet, the opportunities can only be found in darker deeper holes ………..

 

They are brutal.

Fucking brutal.

 

You face a setback.

You pick yourself up, recover and get going again. And maybe just as you get going again … well … you get another setback.

 

This one hurts a little more because you knew you had invested and you knew you had done it right … and you still got screwed again with another setback.

 

 

You figure … what the hell … I did it once and I can do it again and you pick yourself up again and get going, recover and you are starting to put the last setback in your rear view mirror and … doh … another setback.

 

 

This one hurts. Hurts bad.

 

But … you know you have no alternative but to get up, try again and get going.

This time is a little different though. This time you are a little more tentative.

Maybe even doubt a little more. You still put energy into it and you are working hard but this time your head is more on a swivel.

 

Uhm.

And then another setback happens.

 

Most will get up and go again. But this time doubt is your companion and while you are trying your best … you are most likely not really your best.

 

And then another setback happens.

 

This is where the trite positive ‘pick yourself up’ people sort of get things wrong.

 

It’s not that you don’t have the desire … you just have lost hope that you will ever get a break or that it will finally be someone else who will have a setback and not you.

 

Sigh.

 

I read this quote somewhere:

 

“Time to bet on yourself, big, huge, gigantic bet on your genius and abilities to change the world for the better because nothing is going to stop you, no force is going to hold you down or get in your way and make you lose your inner motivation again.”

 

 

Well.

 

kitchen-table-study-problems-concerns-home-life-leadThat sound good … really good … but persistent setbacks are a whole different game. You can be motivated, you can bet on yourself and all of those things <which are usually necessary for any success> but … well … what happens if you have to keep on going back to the well again and again and again?

 

What happens when Life just seems to provide one more setback after you have just recovered and gained some momentum for the last setback … which you had done after the setback before that one and … well … you get it.

 

There is only so much anyone can take before they get tired … start having doubts … and then simply lose hope.

Look.

 

Everyone can pull themselves together after a setback.

A quicksand  setback is a little trickier but depending on deeply you sink … most people can pull themselves together.

 

But persistent setbacks? Whew.

 

You aren’t looking for a big break … you are just looking for A break.

 

When in a persistent setback cycle … it is relentlessly exhausting.

 

Your plans all seem to not go as planned.

 

You can do your best, and it may actually be pretty good, and it can still fail.

 

You can be really smart, have a smart idea, articulate it smartly, and it can still be rejected or ignored.

 

You can work harder than anyone else and pour your heart & soul into something and it can still go unnoticed.

 

And all of that gets exponentially harder to take with each ongoing setback.

 

In addition … persistent setbacks take on a darker hue if you start looking around you and see mediocrity winning and rising and some of the least qualified not facing the setbacks you are.

 

Now.

 

I did some research.

And I found how we deal with setbacks depends on how much control someone feels they have over a situation.

 

The study found that changes in certain brain areas were related to persisting with goals after encountering setbacks.

 

Participants more often persisted with their goals, choosing to try again to earn the same academic degree, when they perceived they had control over a setback than if they perceived that they did not have control over a setback.

 

What’s more, activity in a brain area called the ventral striatum was related to persisting with goals in cases where the setbacks were controllable. Participants who showed greater decreases in brain activity in the ventral striatum when they encountered a controllable setback were more likely to persist with their goals.

 

On the other hand, changes in a brain area called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex were related to persistence when the setbacks were uncontrollable. The ventromedial prefrontal cortex is involved in regulation of emotions, and the new study suggests this brain area helps people cope with negative emotions in order to persist in the case of uncontrollable setbacks.

 

 

drowning no water lifeIn other words … when setbacks are uncontrollable they affect us in a more emotional way.

 

Yup. When persistent setbacks seem to continue in ways that are out f our control … well … they fucking kick the shit out of you mentally.

 

 

I say that because I think most of us overlook how persistent setbacks affect the mind.

 

And while I just outlined how I believe it affects an individual … there is also an effect on the people around you.

 

Say you are a parent and you are in this doomed cycle of persistent setbacks.

As a child that is all you see. That is all you hear about. That is what you start thinking Life is more like than what you see on TV with regard to ‘work harder than anyone else and your dreams can come true <or you can do anything you want>.’

 

Let me tell you what I mean by showing you some research numbers I just saw.

 

Among the dozens of research studies post 2016 election I found some number about the working class and education that made me sit up a little and think about this whole ‘persistent setback’ issue and how … if it is affects a swath of the population long enough … can affect their larger attitudes.

 

In an analysis by the Public Religion Research Institute and The Atlantic 54% of white working-class Americans said investing in college education is a risky gamble … this includes a whopping 61% of white working-class men <white working-class voters who held this belief were almost twice as likely as their peers to support Trump>.

 

Ok.

That is bad. But it gets worse.

 

This belief is even more prevalent among white working-class Americans under 30.

 

This belief means that they are not buying into the idea that if you do work really hard, if you do study and go to school, you will be able to get ahead.

 

In my persistent setback theory we have an entire swath of America who has given up hope that they can ‘overcome the setbacks and get ahead.”

 

“The survey shows that many white working-class Americans, especially men, no longer see that path available to them. … It is this sense of economic fatalism, more than just economic hardship, that was the decisive factor in support for Trump among white working-class voters.”

<Robert P. Jones, the CEO of PRRI>

 

 

I don’t really want to discuss Trump voters and white working class people today but I do want to make a point about persistent setbacks and how they affect people’s attitudes.

 

Black, white, Asian, American Indian, whatever … persistent setbacks are an equal opportunity hope killer.

 

Any setback sucks. I don’t care how old you are … a setback is a setback and lovers quarrel life and medepending on where you are in life a setback can be crushing.

 

All the positive encouragement to pick yourself up and get going again kind of misses the mark. I don’t offer a solution today I am just making a point and bitching.

 

And all the bitching aside.

 

Everyone just needs to recognize that setbacks come in all shapes and sizes, not all setbacks are created equal, setbacks can be deceiving in their appearances and if you don’t recognize all that you run the risk of missing what someone else is enduring with regard to persistent setbacks.

 

 

Ride it to the buzzer

January 12th, 2016

Bad outexecuting Chaos_to_structure

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“Ride it to the buzzer.”

 

 

a bull rider

 

 

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I love this phrase.

 

I love it with regard to how to live Life as well as how business should be conducted <projects, initiatives, programs, internal employee & external sales activity>.

 

In a rodeo there are no results for progress … you simply ride it to the buzzer or you do not.

Even better?

 

Watch a bull rider ride. The buzzer sounds at 8 seconds … but the ride itself goes on for seconds more … they ride THROUGH the buzzer.

 

 

Now.

 

 

I will admit upfront … I am not a milestones guy or a ‘stage goal’ guy. Show me the end zone, tell me how much time I have to get in the end zone and let me get there.

 

<be aware … I am now officially mixing sports metaphors>

 

 

I think I became this was because I viewed some important behavior patterns in business people fairly early in my career:

 

lists goals aim

– A milestone was treated like a touchdown and not a first down.

 

 

What I mean by that is a milestone is … well … simply a step toward the ultimate objective. And unlike football this ‘first down’ doesn’t earn you another set of downs … it is simply a false ‘win.’

 

Okay.

 

That was harsh.

 

Maybe it is simply a reflection of progress. But progress in and of itself, in business, is not the objective. The objective is some result. Partial results don’t equal a partial win they simply equate to a failure to reach the objective.

 

And, yet, milestones were treated almost equal to the ‘objective win.’

 

 

 

– The end zone line was treated like a stopping point.

 

knowing when to stop

What I mean by that is that everyone ran to the end zone line itself and not thru the line and into the end zone.

This may sound silly or wasted energy … but I could argue that most projects are not discrete. They typically beget something else – another task, project or action.

I always preferred focusing the project to end on the ‘completion+’. The “+” being an array of “what’s next” type thoughts and tasks.

 

But, that’s me, what I kept seeing <and still see today> is a weird rush to the finish line with a contradictory slowing down at the same time to insure going no further than the objective.

 

 

So … how did I mentally shift to something other than what I was seeing <and di not believe was the best way of doing it>?

 

 

Ride it to the buzzer.

 

Its 8 seconds on a bucking bronco or a beast of a bull. Isn’t that what business is like? And don’t give me the ‘it’s only 8 seconds and projects in business can take months.” Time is relative and I am actually focusing on finishing.

 

Sure.

A long project can be energy draining and there are points where you seek to conserve energy to have the energy needed when it is needed. But that’s not really the point. 8 seconds, used wisely, is a lifetime.

 

 

A bull rider is the human athlete in the man-versus-beast sport of bull riding.

 

When a bull rider is still in control of the ride when the eight-second buzzer sounds it is called a Qualified Ride and therefore earns a score.

A qualified ride is 8 seconds. The clock starts when the bull’s shoulder or flank breaks the plane of the gate and stops when the rider’s hand comes out of the rope, the rider touches the ground or the rider’s free arm touches the bull.

I think business needs more of a bull rider mentality.

Heck.

I think living Life needs more of a bull rider mentality.

 

 

I think more leaders should lead, and manage, not only with a bull rider mentality … but with a ride it to the buzzer mentality.

 

 

Look.

 

 

I can guarantee you pretty much one thing if you bring this kind of mentality to your professional life.

 

You will be successful.where are you moving better

 

 

Mostly you will be successful because you will ‘run through’ the objective while others are pacing everything to stop at the objective.

 

But I could suggest you will be successful because you will not need milestones or stage goals. Why? Because you don’t need them … you are riding until the buzzer.

And that’s all that matters.

nostalgia … plus ca change, plus ca meme chose

May 20th, 2014

 

liar

‘plus ca change, plus ca meme chose’

<the more things change, the more they stay the same>

 

 

Nostalgia is a
dirty liar
that insists things
were better
than they seemed.
Michelle K  I Can’t Stop Questioning It.

 

 

“You realize that our mistrust of the future makes it hard to give up the past.”

—Chuck Palahniuk,

 

Nostalgia is a drug.

Plain and simple.

 

Nostalgia is an addiction that truly sinks in when you become old enough to actually have memorable memories.

 

Oops.

 

 

life which wayI imagine that means … ‘old’ … okay … older or old enough to have gathered up some things in that past to compare to what is happening … and theoretically place against what you imagine the future will look like.

 

 

Ok. That said.

 

Nostalgia is the bane of every older generation’s existence.

 

And when I say ‘older’ I will unequivocally state it begins in the 50something age bracket.

All of a sudden we begin looking toward our future <the young> with mistrust … for … well … let’s say two reasons:

 

<1>: because we struggle to give up our past and how things were done <as we did them>. In other words … we mistrust them to do it as well as we ‘perceived’ we did it … or would do it. By the way … we mistrust even if we actually sucked at doing in the past.

 

<2>: power … the loss of power. every generation hesitates to let go of power and empower the next generation. but this generation is exponentially more difficult because of the rise of technology. technology means older folk are losing power not transferring power to the next generation.

letting go claw marks

 

Anyway.

Bottom line … we mistrust our future and hold on to the past.

 

 

Now.

 

Not all things.

 

Just the changes that we can’t wrap our heads around <like technology>.

 

And before all the old folk want to begin bitching to this old folk <me> I am not discussing unfounded 50something negative stereotypes about younger people <the 80 million millennial Americans born roughly between 1980 and 2000>.  My observation is backed up by gobs of sociological research … our negativity is grounded is some things we do not like.

 

One of the researchers at The National Institute of Health suggests that rather than being inherently self-centered or overconfident, millennials are just adapting quickly to a world undergoing rapid technological change. And while adapting <very well I would like to point out> they are also optimistic … and confident … and pragmatic … at a time when it can be difficult just to get by. Those aren’t bad qualities to have <even if it feels like they spend too much time on their phones>.

 

 

I say that because this is an example where the old folk just cannot wrap their nostalgic heads around the changes in the world <and how things are adapting>.

We far too often <in our nostalgic pea like brains> intertwine attitudes and behavior creating some fairly negative overall perceptions. We are nostalgically selective <picking and choosing what we would like to remember>  with regard to what we perceived as our attitudes in our youth <somewhat warped by time> as well as our behavior <once again warped by time> and we say things like this:life explained diagram

 

 

–          This generation lacks respect … respect for others … respect for their jobs … respect for themselves … they think that everyone owes them something … their boss,friends family,co workers and it all boils down to a lack of respect. And the phone …. just because we have access to it doesn’t mean we should be on it all the freaking time … kids come in all the time and i want to rip their headphones right out of their ears … seems to me that this generation doesn’t want to be part of this world at all they want to be part of a virtual world. A world where they can rant and complain about the world but not have to change it .. .i feel sorry for the youth and young adults … most of them are rude and inconsiderate. get off your fricken phone…..get off the fricken internet ….and live a real life and not a virtual one… believe me it’s a lot more complicated out here than it is in your virtual world …”

 

 

 

laugh at deathWhen I read the above.

First … I laughed and shook my head.

 

Second.

It made me think of this quote:

 

Every human generation has its own illusions with regard to civilization; some believe they are taking part in its upsurge, others that they are witnesses of its extinction. In fact, it always both flames and smolders and is extinguished, according to the place and the angle of view.”

Ivo Andrić

 

Simplistically … we often just get nostalgic for how we perceived we were when we were young <a portion of that is a wish that they respected older ‘power’ like we supposedly did>.

 

In other words … we want them to be like us … despite a world unlike what it was for us.

<and that is frickin’ crazy>

 

 

Now.

To be <very> clear.

 

There is a significant difference between nostalgia and learning from the past. And this is a very important distinction with this particular current generation gap.

 

Significantly … this is the first generation to be born with easy access to the internet which opens “us” up to new ideas and different perspectives. It also gives us a greater ability to look at the mistakes of the older generations in better hindsight. The combination of technology & perspective is creating a faster shift of power than in past generations. And a wider gap between nostalgic memory and present reality.

 

Yes … there may be some in the younger generation who are lazy or expect the world to hand them everything.

But.

There are also many more who have the knowledge to think more critically than those in the past, more self-confidence to succeed and the desire to prove our many stereotypes wrong.

And they all pretty much know significantly more about living Life in a technology driven world than the older generation <lazy or industrious that they may be>.

 

 

Look.

What will become of this younger generation will not be written for many years but it is difficult to not feel optimistic when you stop being nostalgic and actually see what the young have to offer. As well as stop being nostalgic simply in the attempt to maintain control over them <as they increasingly gain power>.

 

 

The young always are frustrated with older generations. That is their place in generational Life.

 

But nostalgia gives them a real bitch against us older folk.

Because nostalgia can often be an easy attitude which actually puts a comfortable attractive comforter  over ignorance and blind arrogance.

 

The underlying conceit is that only our specific generation is ‘right’ when it comes to everything from popular culture preferences to fashion and style to how to conduct business … shit … nostalgia tucked awayabout how anything is done <attitudinally mostly but some behavior things also>.

The truth is that as we aged, we shifted our own biases upwards with us, so that we always reside in the ‘sweet spot of attitudes & behaviors <in which people act reasonably> whereas those younger and older than us are always flawed in a variety of ways.

And because we are ‘the sweet spot’ we feel compelled to point out the flaws at every opportunity.

 

 

But here is the funny thing … oh … I was going to write something sarcastically funny here but gawker.com already did it for me:

 

 

Though we don’t like to give away trade secrets, in this case, will reveal the following fact: this is a “joke.” The subtext of this running joke—a joke that we intend to run for so long that it becomes indistinguishable from a true prejudicial belief, and comes to define us (negatively) in the minds of the casual readers—is, of course, that every generation is basically exactly the same, and there is very little new under the sun, and, my god, even Socrates was complaining about the lazy ways of the youth back in his time, what the fuck would make you think that your generation, whatever it is, is in any way inherently special compared to the thousands of human generations that came before you? The entire farcical idea that humanity reaches its peak with your generation and then proceeds to go into decline with the next generation is made all the more hilarious by the fact that every generation before you believed the same thing, as will every generation after you. Humans: even our sense of uniqueness is not unique!

 

<I loved this>

 

Anyway.

 

nostalgia definedThere are a number of research studies that basically say the foundation of our behaviors are fairly consistent from generation to generation as we age <although some of our attitude characteristics will vary – as per Strauss & Howe 4th Turning generations>.

 

 

And luckily Ad Age magazine did a study which points out that the entire image of the Millennial generation as a bunch of lazy, shiftless Skrillex-listeners is largely just a media creation, because—wait for it—Millennials are pretty much just like you:

 

 

But like generations before them, millennial parents tend to be more traditional and shop more frugally than their non-parent counterparts. According to the study, before millennials have children they over-index on brands like Abercrombie, H&M, Apple, Macy’s and Sephora. After they become parents, those brands not only drop, some of them disappear from their consideration set. Instead, millennials shift to over-indexing against the entire U.S. population on brands like Dollar General, Kohl’s, Lowe’s, Wal-Mart and Value City. About 44% of millennial parents are “very financially stressed.”

 

 

Basically.

 

–          Your mom was young and free and then had you and then she shopped at the cheap store.

–          You were young and free and then you had kids and then you shopped at the cheap store.

–          And Millennials were young and free and then they had kids and then they shopped at the cheap store.

 

 

Bottom line.

No matter who you are, or how old you are, or what generation you’re from, we’re all just struggling to get by and will end up shopping at a cheap store <whew … that is an uplifting thought, huh?>

 

All that said.serious nonsense change anything

 

As the French say: ‘plus ca change, plus ca meme chose’ (the more things change, the more they stay the same.)

 

We should accept that the young have good ideas.

We should help them make the changes that need to be made.

We should stop complaining about their confidence, optimism, independence and ability to navigate technology.

 

We should stop constantly being nostalgic because … well… it’s getting old <and sounds old>.

 

 

Nostalgia is our fallback place to go when we distrust the future.

We hold on to what was … because we have no clue ‘what will be.’

 

I am not suggesting we shouldn’t learn, or take some learnings, from the past.

But.

Once again.

 

There is a significant difference between nostalgia and learning from the past.

 

–      Nostalgia simply encourage us to regurgitate past mistakes.

 

–      Learning from the past means shedding aspects and adapting other aspects to the present.

 

Look.

I don’t know what the millenials will do or what the generation after them will do.holding universe together matters

I admit that I find many of them engaging and they often do not carry the bigotry, attitudes and prejudices of us older folk.

 

I am not nostalgic.

In fact I hope there is a better future to be found by discarding much of the past.

 

I’m older.

But I have faith that the young people of today can learn from past mistakes and will grow up and get it <whatever their version of getting it is> and continue building a fantastically imperfect perfect  future.

 

I’m older.

And I recognize that far too often nostalgia is a liar.

 

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

 

 

Ok.

 

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.

 

Well.

 

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>.”

 

Wow.

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

 

Well.

 

How about hunger motivating ambition?

That seems almost as absurd.

 

Look.

 

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.’

 

Now.

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>.

 

Yeah.

 

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.

 

Regardless.

 

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.

 

Oh.

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.

 

 

Now.

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

 

Look.

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.’

 

Now.

 

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.

 

Well.

 

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.

 

Look.

 

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.

 

Lastly.

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.

Why?

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.

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,

 

Me?

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>.

 

Anyway.

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.’

 

Now.

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

 

Heck.

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.

 

Gee.

 

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

Enlightened Conflict