Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Wealth Creation Versus Theft

Every day I despair that our country has been split into two alternate realities.
In one reality, you have the Confiscators. Here, wealth is not created – it never grows. There is a finite amount of it, as though it is a single pie. If a person, or a country is wealthy, they’ve stolen it and don’t deserve to keep it.
If anyone wants to get more pie, it can only happen if they take it from someone else – either by stealing it themselves, or by getting someone else to steal it for them. Someone like the government.
The government doesn’t create wealth – it REDISTRIBUTES it. It takes from the producers and gives to… whoever it feels like (including itself – that’s where they take out their “overhead.) People who have no interest in producing (because they have no belief in their own ability to create wealth), live lives of envy – they consider themselves the “have-nots”; because they can’t imagine wealth creation, they resent the “haves”, who could have only gotten that way by stealing pie from someone else.
People tend to assume that others would behave the same as themselves. If you think that the only way YOU can gain wealth is to steal, then the only way someone has more than you is because they stole it. Why not just sit on your backside and collect “free” money that’s been taken from others, Why not? If you don’t believe that more can be created, why bother trying? Especially when you’ve been incentivized by the system.
In the other reality, you have the Creationists - people who believe they can create wealth, that they can actually “grow the pie”. When they see someone who has wealth, they try to figure out how they can copy them and create some for themselves. They use their time and treasure and ideas and find ways to provide goods and services that consumers want, and create jobs and negotiate for services from others that help others so that they gain wealth, too. The more they create, the more there is for everyone. A rising tide raises all boats.
An advanced country can find ways to use an undeveloped country’s resources that the poorer country can’t, and improves the quality of life of the poorer one in the process. If you believe in wealth creation, you want EVERYONE to do well, because this increases your customer base.
Where is the truth? Can wealth be created?
Let’s play “Let’s Make a Deal”. You get to pick what’s behind one of two doors. Behind door number one is 680g of raw materials – metals, chemicals, and the like.  Behind door number two is an original, first generation iPad. Which do you choose?
Whether you’re a Confiscator or a Creationist, you’re bound to pick the iPad – I think we can all agree that the raw materials have been made more valuable by transforming them into a machine. WEALTH HAS BEEN CREATED.
Look around you. See the buildings? The vehicles? The jewelry? Think of all that’s been created over the history of mankind, to get us to where we are – a far cry from what the Cro-Magnons could go out and gather. Look at ALL THE WEALTH!  
In the 2012 election, I thought our side made a decent argument about how the OCCUPIER OF THE WHITEHOUSE and his party was committing generational theft – forcing our children and grandchildren into a debt they would never be able to get out from under. How did we get to the point where half our citizens (or whoever it is that’s voting in our elections) DON’T CARE WHAT HAPPENS TO THEIR COUNTRY OR THEIR NEIGHBORS, LET ALONE TO THEIR OWN CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN, as long as they can have “free stuff.” They’ve lost their moral compass, as well as their faith in themselves, and would rather sentence themselves and successive generations to poverty instead of lifting a finger to improve their lives?
The pie is always growing unless something stifles it – until something makes people stop believing that it can be better for everyone. Something that inspires envy and distrust, like a divisive, overbearing, power-hungry government. A government that’s making more and more of us feel hopeless, like there’s no point in fighting it.
Don’t give in! Don’t let it do this to our country. Don’t sit back and turn your children into slaves. GET OFF YOUR BUTTS and create something instead of taking what isn’t yours. Stop being an accessory. Get some pride and self-reliance, and make your own life better in the process.

Just saying.

Monday, December 16, 2013

What Do Our Stories Mean?

Here’s my list of movies I can (and DO) watch again and again until it makes my wife sick:
  •  Invincible
  • A Knight’s Tale
  • Lord of the Rings
  • It’s a Wonderful Life
  • They Might Be Giants
  • What do these say about me? What’s in there? A heavy dose of underdog, some nobility, People changing their destiny. People realizing their worth – people discovering what’s important and acting on it. Heroism – imagined and otherwise. Redemption. LOTS OF REDEMPTION.

    These are all external to my – other people’s stories. But all of us also have narratives we tell others (and ourselves) to help define who we are. If you’ve known someone long enough, you’ll hear the important ones repeated over and over again. The touchdown on the school playground by the un-athletic kid, or run-ins with the law confessed by someone too honest and straight-laced to have REALLY done those things. Stories we tell about things we remember doing (even if we didn’t.) Memories are malleable, so we shape them to make it easier to live with ourselves.

    Is it what I’m living, or what I wish I was living, or what I should be? Where is reality? Caught somewhere between the Dreams of my Past and the Fears of my Future.

    I’ve heard that people go into psychiatry / psychology (as a profession) because they have issues to work through (there’s admonition that a lawyer who defends himself has a fool for a client that might apply similarly, here.) I’ve also heard that Writers use their stories in their own way to work through personal issues – exposing (if they’re brave enough) much of what troubles them.

    I think my movies tell you where I think I should be – what I ought to be striving for, and the stories I tell others in person about myself reveal what I wish I’d been and done. But if what I’ve heard is true, the fictions I write may say more about WHERE I AM AND WHERE I’VE BEEN than any of those.

    I’ve written some strange stories so far. I wonder what it says about me. There’s a lot of them (and me) out there now on Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble (ALMOST SHAMELESS PLUG.) Maybe if someone were to read them, they might be able to figure me out.

    Just saying…


    Monday, December 2, 2013

    I Don’t Like What Big Data Has Done to My Mail

    I’m not happy with what I get in the mail.
    First, let me clarify this. For those of you who think I meant email (those born after 1985 or so, most likely) and those who thought I meant through the U.S. Postal Service (those born before the other group), I mean both types of mail. They’re really the same thing, sent through different methods. I’ve noticed that I seem to get far more junk emails each day than the physical junk mail I used to receive – probably because its so much cheaper to send. And so much more politically correct to send us all this annoying, unsolicited advertising without killing as many trees. How many trees will it take me to build a barrier to all these emails? LET THAT BE A LESSON IN UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES. But I digress.
    I used to get mail for things that were at least mildly interesting for people with some life in them. Tours. Cruises. Fitness club memberships. Singles groups. All you email generation people can probably understand me so far – you are probably getting these even now. This is where I’m going to lose you.
    The mail I get now isn’t like that. Instead, I get reams of targeted ads that the marketers have determined to be more appropriate to my stage of life. Retirement communities. Colonoscopies. Hip replacements. Funeral Plots. Really gives a guy something to look forward to, doesn’t it.
    I don’t think this is a problem with my age – it’s a problem with technology.
    You see, in the old days (when I wasn’t old), I used to get mail that wasn’t right for me. Mass-mailings that went to everyone, instead of a select demographic, because they didn’t have the sophisticated computers or mailing lists to make it possible to fine-tune their message. But all that’s changed, and it’s going to get worse.
    Already, the targeting of communication has gotten narrower – each demographic group is being exposed to their own “suitable” subset. Soon (or maybe already), when you search for something online, it will narrow your search based on YOUR history and demographics. The results will be modified by what the search engine thinks is best for you. Instead of getting a wide exposure to the world, you’ll be looking at it through an increasingly small filter. It will be like trying to explore the universe through the peephole in your door.
    What will happen when the day comes that they can alter a piece of entertainment so that it appears differently to each viewer? The same technology that will allow a 3-D television to project a clear image to 4 people by knowing where they are in the room, will also know who they are and what demographic they belong in. We’ll all sit in a room together watching an episode of “Friends”, but we’ll each be seeing a different production. Even the stupid ads that pop up in the corner of the screen will be “just for you.”
    When this transition is complete, what will we all have in common? Sure, “Friends” will be the Number One rated show ever, but we won’t be able to talk about it around the water cooler. Instead we’ll spend our time arguing over the differences. I think we do enough of that already.
    I remember some time back there was talk of engineering Artificial Stupidity, to get machines to do unintelligent things that would make them seem more human. I think we could use some of that now – it may be the only thing that can save us from becoming totally Balkanized. Have the computers go haywire on purpose and send me a little of someone else’s world for a change.
    I’m waiting for something different to show up in my mail – then I’ll know we’re safe. Maybe it will be the Little Golden Books Catalog. Or Better Homes & Gardens. Who knows what form salvation will take?

    Friday, October 25, 2013

    DE-Sensitivity Training

    Apparently, this is anti-bullying month. I could make some jokes about what are we going to do during the 11 pro-bullying months, but I’m not really in a joking mood. This is unusual, because I can usually joke about just about anything, and occasionally find myself being skewered for my lack of sensitivity.
    The fact is, this gets to the heart of my problem with the ANTI-BULLYING agenda. As much as I believe that bullying is wrong, there is no way to completely prevent it – there is always going to be some level of bullying. As much as we need to try to stop bullies, I believe the real problem is that VICTIMS DON’T KNOW HOW TO REACT.
    There are different levels of bullying, each requires a different response. Sometimes, you need to punch the bully in the nose to get your point across.
    Oh, wait: in today’s PC climate, your child is no longer allowed to defend themselves. If a bully comes after your kid and he defends himself, BOTH of the students are violating a ZERO TOLERANCE, NO FIGHTING policy, and BOTH the bully and the victim will be punished.
    ZERO TOLERANCE POLICIES are symptom of an inability to make judgments. Part of it is an intellectual failing – we are not training people to be able to use common sense. The biggest part is a failing of character – we have made people afraid to use their own judgment, to make a decision and stand by it. We are training ourselves to be constantly in retreat.
    A PUNCH THROWN IN SELF-DEFENSE SHOULD NOT BE CRIMINALIZED. Of course, this is a variation of STAND YOUR GROUND, which drives some people crazy (if they weren’t already there.)
     People who think this way also believe that if you pass laws to make guns illegal, there will be no more gun violence. As if criminals (or bullies) care about the rules. Why does this mindset insist on disarming the law-abiding? Tell me – how does a 100-pound woman defend herself against a 200-pound assailant – even if he’s un-armed? By pointing a finger at him and telling him he’s under citizen arrest? GUNS IN THE HANDS OF LAW-ABIDING CITIZENRY ARE A GOOD THING.
    I will confess that I felt bullied recently when someone tried to get me to wear a specific color to prove that I’m opposed to bullying. I find it horribly intimidating to be pressured this way. Should I:
    A) Complain about it to the authorities?
    B) Get over it?
    I don’t know about the rest of the world, but my country has turned into an easily offended, beaten up victim-hood. When did this happen? Somebody needs to tell these people that they don’t have a right to NOT be offended.
    Somebody looks at you without smiling – you don’t know what they’re thinking, but it can’t be good. Are you going to make a law about people frowning?
     One of the biggest disservices we’ve done to the generations behind us is to try to take disappointment out of their lives. Everyone gets a ribbon for participating. Don’t hurt their little self-esteems by rewarding a winner – tell them they’re ALL winners. Where’s the motivation to try harder and improve? And more importantly, HOW WILL THEY LEARN TO COPE WITH DISAPPOINTMENT WHEN IT HAPPENS? (AND IT WILL.)
    Isn’t it sad to see grown adults, ten, fifteen, thirty years after high school, appearing on a television talk show to confront someone who bullied them back then? Couldn’t someone have helped these people GET OVER IT AND GET ON WITH THEIR LIVES?
    This is the crux of the problem I have with Anti-Bullying showcases. You will never completely prevent bullying. Teach kids to cope with it.
    Teach them what to do when it’s really serious – where and when to get help, and who to get it from.
    Teach them how to defend themselves when it’s necessary (and don’t punish them for it.) And when it’s what used to be a normal part of life, help them by giving them some DE-SENSITIVITY TRAINING: teach them how to cope with people looking at them funny, or calling them names, or not inviting them to parties, and teach them how to not let it rule and ruin their lives, and GET OVER IT.