Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Money is a virus

Money is a virus. It cannot replicate itself without a host. Because corporations receive the political status of people, the host does not actually have to breathe and eat and all that jazz. But the virus depends on susceptibility. The people in the corporation act merely as the regenerated cells of an organism in which genetic coding is activated. One cell sloughed or killed is replaced by another.

Every person is affected to some degree. Some get it much worse than others. While it suffers nothing at all from the death of an individual or even a multitude, someone must remain to desire it.

Through inheritance, money infects generation after generation. The inherited form can cause all kinds of symptoms mimicking the earned form, but actually more debilitating to the patient. A person who has inherited a severe case may feel special in their delirium, and exhibit paranoid and defensive behavior.

Because the virus has both desirable and undesirable effects, highly susceptible individuals will justify their unwillingness to treat their condition by spinning myths that accentuate only the perceived advantages to themselves and others as a result of infection. In this way it mimics a drug. The virus affects the brain as well as the body.

As with the bacteria in our intestines, we need some money to maintain a healthy condition. But exactly like the bacteria in our intestines, too much of the virus throws us far out of balance. The illness of one can have damaging consequences for many people, even those who have not been directly exposed to the sufferer.

When we die out, will our money remain like dormant viruses, until another species of hosts develops susceptibility and takes up the dropped tokens of our social disease?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Deployment

The cellist has found a job in her specialty, teaching orchestra. It's back in Maryland. In mid-August we become a long distance couple.

Couples have been pulled apart by economics throughout history. There are no good old days to which we might return. Her career here has been a constant struggle. Because her specialty is teaching orchestra her life will be somewhat of a struggle even where conditions are the best for someone with her skills. She left a full time position in Maryland 15 years ago and is returning only to a part time job. So-called non essential subjects like music and art get carved away by budget cutters, their faculty disregarded as hobbyists and dilettantes compared to "real" teachers.

Here in the harsh and rocky wilds of northern New England the grim people who pride themselves on facing grim reality set their grim mouths in a tight line and ask, "what did you expect? We told you it was no good here."

You should have learned to do something useful. But even useful people are struggling. There always seem to be more people than jobs. You take what you can get where you can get it.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Republic of the Gun

I was going to title this "Guntopia," but that term is already used pretty heavily by the people who would enjoy living in Guntopia.

I had this sudden brainstorm that the best way to bring about the armed society is for the armed to start killing the unarmed simply for being unarmed.

You could set some limits. You could warn the general population that this was going to happen, to give the undecided time to weapon up. You could exempt people below a certain age. Spouses who had signed a dependency contract and wore a badge to signify that they were under the protection of an armed person would be off limits at least for round one. Later, of course, when disputes are settled by combat, it might be necessary to take out someone's spouse to teach them a lesson or to advance the conflict. It's about eradicating dissent, after all. Disagree at your peril. This thing could escalate. When it does, the baddest ass will prevail. And this is how God intended. The quick and the dead.

After the mass slaughter of the pacifists there would still be plenty of firefights. The slaughter wouldn't even count as a firefight. It's more like the extermination of a pest. Once that's out of the way the real fun begins, against worthy adversaries who know the value of combat skill and equipment.

No doubt some defectives would appear in every generation and start whining about peace. A quick one through the forehead will take care of that. Maybe you give them a little time to grow up, but once they hit 18 or 20 they need to start seeing the light or you'll have to put a skylight in their skull.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Conservative conceit

It's been almost a year since a relative of mine used the conservative assertion that some person or persons we were discussing "isn't old enough to be conservative yet." It still bothers me coming from a family member, when I might have brushed it off from some idiot on the street, the television or in an opinion column.

I first ran across this snotty put-down back in the 1990s. I'm sure it's older than that, but that's how long I've had to be aware of it. It's one more subtle way to turn a discussion of issues into an exchange of insults. By all means, be patronizing.

As further proof that I'm living my life backwards, I have steadily grown less conservative as I have gained life experience and listened to the stories of more and more people. I have my limits, but anyone to my right would surely say I am and have been headed in the wrong direction.

Over the years I have steadily scoured out remnants of racism, sexism and homoanxiety I had acquired simply by growing up privileged and white in the 1960s and '70s. Sure, lots of white people were braver and more noble in support of the advancement of all the repressed and downtrodden, and others were far worse in continuing the oppression, but in the middle were doofuses like me who laughed at certain jokes without thinking hard about them, who treated women at least ever so slightly like a prey species and worried about whether we might be homosexual because male classmates were questioning our manhood. Even referring to heterosexual orientation as manhood, as if it was the only form of it, is a holdover from a more simple-minded past.

Fiscal conservatism can be sensible. I don't like to waste money, even if I do get along with all sorts of freaks and weirdos and believe that no one should make 700 times as much money as someone else who has a job and tries to be useful. I happen to believe that the government established by the US Constitution is basically a good model for addressing a bad situation, namely the need to have a government to take care of the routine details of running a society that allows for ample citizen input. The channels of input have been bought out by financially powerful interests masquerading as "the Private Sector." If they can be reclaimed, the big old rickety ship of state might actually start working for the benefit of all once again.

Conservatism in its worst form tends to reject ideas based on their source and to act on the basis of fear. While the conservative may brandish weapons and say warlike things, it is the emotional first line of defense against a world perceived as inherently hostile. If they are correct, and the human race is incorrigibly violent and duplicitous, I'm even happier not to join anyone's hate club and not to have subjected any offspring to the Planet of the Assholes.

I know my relative's fear springs from a time he was very small and still innocent, and had the very bad fortune to be thrust into the middle of desegregation in the schools in a city that was only just recovering from a period of racial violence. Oops. He's not a swastika-wearing skinhead, but he's one of those people who still keeps the N-word available in his vocabulary to describe dark persons who do things of which he does not approve.

Other influences have contributed to solidifying his position. I never argue about it. There's no point. Everyone has to try to find methods that get them successfully through one day and the next for as long as they keep getting more days. While I believe that many -- if not most - of the positions strongly held by today's conservatives are bad for the future of humanity, I know that no one can change this by acts of force. And if it can't be changed by persistent spread of knowledge and a gentle insistence on productive discussion and action, it won't be changed at all. So back we come to the self-fulfilling prophecy of conservative dystopia. They'll have been right because their intransigence brought about the culture of violence and distrust they feared existed all along. The only freedom comes through the skillful use of weapons against whoever tries to muscle in on you.

Bummer.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Reshaping the Political Debate

Listening to some political analysis of the fall of Eric Cantor on NPR, I realized that the only way to get the debate away from partisan squabbling is to disband the Democratic Party and have everyone register as a Republican. Instantly the people who only look for the (R) or automatically vote against the Democrats will either have to start figuring out where they stand on each and every issue or quit voting.

Such a move would completely change the familiar election process that has been letting us down so consistently. Why have a primary and a general election when everyone's in the same party? There would be no us and them. It would render the brand name of the politician meaningless and turn the focus instead to the individual's fitness to meet the needs of voters.

It will never happen, of course. Some people can't live without their group identification. Within the greater Republican Party would develop subcultures that would name themselves and publish their separate ideals in party platforms ranging from Communublican to Libertublican. There would be secret handshakes and coded necktie patterns. Next thing you know one or more of these groups would feel the need to declare their discrete identity. But it would still be hilarious to see what happens in the first weeks or months after every voter joins the R Party

Monday, April 28, 2014

Economic whoas

How can economics be a science when everyone lies about money?

I had this thought this morning over my eggs and toast, and not for the first time. But economics was in the news, with Thomas Piketty's new book and all.

If I did not have to work for a living I would send all my time reading. But since I can't spend all my time reading I spend hardly any time reading, because there's no point to stimulating my mind when I have to spend so many hours of my life focusing on the tedious intricacies and annoying interruptions of my trade. You also need to take time simply to breathe and observe the life around you. Without the need for gainful employment that's how I would spend the time I wasn't reading. Or writing. Or drawing.

Piketty's work is being glorified and machine gunned because it addresses economic inequality. Economic inequality is also glorified and machine gunned. I tend to side with the machine gunners on that one. Or perhaps those wielding brutal pruning saws, since a little inequality acts like differential atmospheric pressure in fostering healthy circulation rather than stagnation in our financial climate. But massive inequality has an equal if not worse tendency to grind the economy to a crawl. And as we can no longer deny that the economy is as global as the environment, what crawls here drags everything down.

As I searched the web on the topic "economic science" I discovered that many people question its right to remain among the sciences. It has -- as you no doubt expected -- its detractors and supporters. The first page of search results contained thought-provoking snippets enough to keep me occupied for several unproductive days.

This piece by Alan Wang in the Harvard Crimson addresses some of the challenges faced by economists in their pursuit of solid principles and successful predictions. "Economics is not, and will never be, at the stage where models can precisely predict the day on which a financial crisis will start before it happens,..." writes Mr. Wang. The statement accepts without question that the crisis will occur. And Wang tangentially addresses why this is so: "...what is the building block of economics? People. Economics does not study any unit smaller than a collection of people. And human behavior can never be absolutely predicted or explained—not if we wish to believe in free will, at any rate."

People: sneaky and noble, sleazy and altruistic, and all motivated to falsify or conceal for reasons both lofty and lowly. There will be a crisis, and another crisis, and so on, because people will try to get away with shit. They'll slip this one past and it will work, so they'll try another and another. Next thing you know you've got a bubble on your hands or all your working class jobs have gone across an ocean.

As economists try to predict the future by laboriously getting further behind the present by studying all they can find of records from the past, people are producing, consuming, trading and transporting as best they can. The principles that guide them are basic: get more than you give, if possible. Try to get a lot more than you give without anyone noticing until you're so big no one can take you down. Then feel free to be as arrogant as you like about it. If there's action, get a piece of it.

What's so complicated? Wealth can't be created without a basis. The basis is finite. Therefore, wealth is finite. How it is distributed depends on human agreement to social conventions. Do you accept that a bold and ruthless person deserves title to all he can seize, or do you favor more general compensation for every contributor to the economy? These aren't economic questions. Economics are the result of these factors, not the origin.

If you want to be the robber baron you will never agree that you should pay workers more or give more in taxes, because that comes out of your own bottom line. If you want to see all contributors enjoy as high a standard of living as the total amount of wealth will allow, you will never agree to let "the free market" decide anything. You'll need to work out some rules, which will lead to arguments, tricky language, lawyers, loopholes and the natural advantages of more money over less money. Inequality is like a controlled burn. The right amount of fire in the right place at the right time renews the vegetation. Too much, too seldom, results in catastrophic conflagrations. Maintaining a fair economy takes a combination of intelligence and empathy that may simply be impossible. We may be doomed to live from one conflagration to the next. And the economists will be sitting in a blackened landscape saying, "we should probably get some fire hoses pretty soon."

Friday, April 04, 2014

Another nightmare scenario

What if you never  figured out which ones were your lucky underwear? You would go through life having good days and bad days, randomly pulling skivvies from the drawer, never knowing you could have exerted any level of influence on the outcome of job interviews, dates, sporting events and other pivotal events in your life.

Right now, start studying the correlation between your undergarments and the kind of day you have. Chart it! Mark the appropriate garments! Think what might depend on it: your very destiny.