Bootstrapping the Big Boy

Sometimes I say, sometimes people do, or are, this or that. Or, generally speaking, most people <insert something here>. Probably I’m right about most, because when I have doubts, I let people know. And I always have doubts unless clarity is certain. Clarity and certainty are rare. Admitting to and expressing doubt is the first step toward achieving that rarity, but even if achieved, change, which can destroy certainty and clarity, is much like life.

Like a dream, where a man had a secret ritual, and every few days he allowed himself, becoming lost within it, far away from monotony. The otherworldly madness overtook him randomly, while alone, and he needed it. He returned to the world only when he heard knocks at his door. Nobody would suspect. Holding this small thread is what kept him going.

One day he was discovered, embarrassingly. Unbelievably, the discoverer loved what he saw, desiring to see more, and encouraged the man to share his secret world with everyone else. To share what he loved, and kept him going. To share it with everyone, every day. And what he loved, that kept him going, became a single dot in an enormous grid. It was that day, something else vanished from the world, while the collective human world became, more or less, something more.

He was lucky, as was everyone else. Lucky as a weekend in Las Vegas, with all the lights, signs, caked-on makeup and cologne. The sweet smell of alcohol mixed with the chink of coin. A dreaming man, dreaming in a grid. A spirit, constructed of intricate, thin wires. An attraction, bringing in a hundred bucks a head. Free alcohol, free meals to the masses, in the corporate welfare State.

I can still remember first hearing “holding yourself up by your own bootstraps”. I was very young. My uncle, on a rare visit, who was a traveling salesman dressed like a cowboy, told me. It fascinated me for days, trying to imagine lifting yourself into the air. It wasn’t possible, but somehow, it seemed like it should be. I thought, maybe there is some trick, just needing discovery. Sometimes it takes a while to learn. Eventually, I resigned myself to walking on the Earth, while my uncle floated by. He was also fond of turquoise.

Dreams. Our dreams, or collective, different to each. If someone is to be, lifted up, others must do the lifting. If some non-human thing is to be, lifted up, our raised-up person can do it without us, though we bear the weight, while our practical awareness of these objects arrive only through the graces of the grid. People are (or are not) one thing, but things raised above us nearly always seem bad, yet somehow it always happens. Why are we doing this?

Ideals are very much like dreams, only ideals are far more rigid. Some ideals have dangerously sharp edges that can slice flesh, while others can potentially crush out the lives of millions in an instant. Ideals are more like solidified dreams. But who are the dreamers? Is it us? Some ideals are liberating. Are those ours? Is death the ultimate liberation?

Lately, there is the lady, crying as she tries removing her nipple piercings with pliers at the airport, to make the machine stop beeping and satisfy the agents. The compulsory copying of all information on your laptop’s hard drive. The national identification cards with radio chips that tie all information about you together. The cameras that can recognize our faces as we’re walking. Our conversations in email and on telephones recorded an analyzed for trends in our thinking. Our tax money meant for us, continuously flowing into corporations. Corporate armies, only now with real guns, on the rise. Millions of people dead or displaced, with survivors mostly without water and electricity, as we secure more resources for record-breaking profits. Millions of our own people in jail, and growing, in prison labor programs for corporations. Our Vice President’s corporation being in the business of maintaining war, prisons and oil facilities. The corporate mandate to expand profit above all other considerations. Only we people subject to law. And these thoughts, walking along the fine borders of sedition.

But it is not sedition. Our country is not for corporations, it is for people. It is not for a few people, it is for all of us. In legal terms, corporations are very much like people. They have many of our rights, yet are subject to few of our impediments and punishments. A few days ago I watched a documentary called “The Corporation” that, in part, analyzed this notion of corporations as people.

  1. Superficial charm, manipulativeness, grandiose sense of self-worth.
  2. Completely rational.
  3. Absence of moral or ethical considerations.
  4. Absence of remorse, guilt or shame.
  5. Denial of responsibility for actions.
  6. Lies, misinformation and evasions to achieve goals or self-protection.
  7. Need for increasing stimulation.
  8. Parasitic behavior.
  9. Law and its spirit is secondary to need (criminal behavior).
  10. Unresponsive to personal things.
  11. Specific losses of insight that allow perfect reasoning.
  12. Lack of consideration for external consequences.

Interestingly, these are all characteristics of a psychopath. Is it surprising that a society “worshiping” and under the rule of psychopaths might experience confusion, and have problems? Is it any wonder that a planet dominated by psychopaths, might get harmed, or even destroy itself? Should we really give a gun to a psychopath? How about an entire army?

Psychopaths have ideals. They even have dreams. They are all about themselves. The notion of enlightened self-interest is simply characteristic #1, with a dose of #2, which, it could even be argued, leads to all the rest. I do not believe that most of us exist within this state of mind. Real people do not, and manage to live smoothly and happily, accepted by we people. Yet corporations do.

Again, Milton Friedman is responsible for much of the economic thought currently prevailing upon us. Leo Strauss is credited as the “grandfather” of neoconservatism. Strauss started teaching political science at the University of Chicago in 1949 and believed that politics and economics were inseparable. Friedman began teach economics at the University of Chicago in 1946. Both taught there until their deaths in the 70’s and 80’s. The ties between them I leave up to you to judge. Strauss irritates me, in large part because I do not agree with his notion of the dumb masses unable to know what is True, and his love affair with Plato, who also thought powerful Truth is best kept from the dumb masses, and whose influence helped squelch science from hundreds of years of progress. Friedman is just simply in denial about the fact that his entire work relies upon faith – faith that good will just somehow happen if you leave corporations alone. It’s a strange faith, since he acknowledges that corporations are great at creating money and jobs, yet cannot cope with social issues. And it’s a strange faith that, when played out, as it has been played out and watched in other countries, and played out again here recently under sweeping deregulation, is really not a faith at all, but rather a contrivance adhered to in the face of measurable experience. A contrivance that simply allows for the accumulation of wealth and power in the hands of a very few people.

Enough people have died. Enough people have had their lives completely destroyed in ways that few of us can imagine. Enough people suffer with no options. Enough profit has been made. There are no excuses left. For any of us.

What is the cost of a dream? Who are the dreamers? What is a dream, when compared to each other? The game is tedious and deadly. It is irresponsible and wasteful. It is unnecessary. Candidates for Change? It best mean Change in the most fundamental ways and sweeping in its scope. Because we no longer live in dream. We live in a nightmare. And the most chilling aspect is, the psychopaths have not raised themselves up by their own bootstraps – we have raised them ourselves.

The primary mandate of a corporation should not be profit. The primary mandate should, at least, be the greatest public good combined with profit. We need to find some way to instill a notion of ethics into corporations, and hold individual people responsible for harm. I don’t care if it hurts the bottom line of corporations, and hence, hurts our jobs or wages. The corporation is not worried about us, anyway, and will do anything to us if it means more profit. If paying our taxes means that we are sending our money to corporations, then those corporations must benefit us, not just its shareholders. None do. They simply work to find more ways to gain more money from us.

It is a creative effort to help people. Corporations are not known for their creativity. I believe we may be able to help them with this, since they have proven unable to help themselves. In other words, how about a little faith in doing what’s good for people, instead of only what’s good for companies? I think we might find that companies might indirectly benefit, just as we people are supposed to now.