The Bridge of Vibrating Objects

More often than not, there is difficulty communicating between people. We have established languages, with vocabularies representing conceptual objects that we string together in a feeble attempt to lift our consciousness from ourselves and offer it to another. Some people claim the vocabulary of our language shapes our thoughts. Others instead claim that our thoughts wrestle with the clumsy limitations of linguistic representations for expression. What we do know is that our consciousness exists as certainly as another consciousness, and the avenues between them are a wilderness of language-constrained train wrecks.

In physics, the laws governing our existence are expressed as mathematical objects. We do not question whether our existence must, necessarily, obey laws. We assume that reason exists, in at least some form, at all levels, even within chaos. We tie the concept of chaos to randomness, and by doing so, we constrain existence, at least in part, with our mathematical objects. This may be a preconceived bias which limits a broader understanding, but it does impose definitions that we can utilize and manipulate within our framework of pseudo-certainty, that is a mathematical representation.

Language is a similar construct. As creatures with unique consciousness, we vibrate the air in defined ways that represent, more or less, the consciousness we are currently experiencing and wish to communicate to another consciousness. However, each consciousness exists in relative isolation from any other, much like parallel universes could be, and any communication of information between islands is fraught with potentials for error. For example, a word might not be understood in the same way on each island, or a string of words may have differing connotations that have arisen from the other consciousness’ history or bias. An even more challenging issue is the fluidity inherent within the island of each consciousness that is, by its very isolation, patently distinct within its own experiential awareness that changes, sometimes even radically, over time.

Objects we create (words or phrases) that are meant to be shared between islands have nowhere to exist, except within whatever space it is that we might label a mutually agreed-upon landscape of language. There is no metaphysical cathedral that houses the canonical truth of each object we have created, except, indirectly, by our further mutual agreement to imbue selected people with the responsibility of maintaining them, which is itself, fraught with peril. It is something, though. And it is a wonder we can communicate at all, particularly in the more abstract.

Mathematics has an easier time, at least within its foundations. The number “2” is well understood within our intersubjective landscape. Any misunderstanding or argument between islands about the number “2” would almost certainly be specious. This is an object that can reasonably be considered safely canonical. Even though it does not exist. I have never seen a “2”, in and of itself. But I have seen the curvy numeral written down many times, and have even determined a quantity of 2 for various things. I know — I lead a wildly abandoned life. But I would be hard-pressed to actually show you a “2”. That’s because it isn’t a thing, but rather a representation of an abstract concept. It is not really physical. Addition and subtraction are also abstract concepts, applied to other abstract concepts. As we’ve discussed earlier, mathematics is an abstraction, tied to the physical in only the most tenuous of ways through the concept of quantity. This has proven to offer us great benefits, but it can also hinder us when it is believed as a canonical representation of the totality of our existence. There is no basis for such an assumption, despite stacks of mathematics on paper.

It seems the human being is prone to adopt beliefs. This is how scientists, even physicists and mathematicians, can believe in God without violating the sanctity of their disciplines: because their disciplines arise from belief, they are accustomed to belief. The only difference between religion and science is the voracity of their self-consistency and their openness to new perspectives. These are constant challenges where religion, more often than not, falls short. But so does science. And like religion, science usually falls short when the canonical caretakers of the holy objects become more interested in their own personal perpetuation than their sacred duty toward humanity and the purity of their calling.

However, these are callings that are far removed from the more humble life we each lead as we return home at the end of the day. At home our concerns turn toward foraging for food, our feelings for the people in our lives, or having a comfy, warm bed in which to dream. While mathematics is removed from us and defined with rigor, the language of our time spent more at rest is sloppier, and is often downright messy. Some would like to bring the certainties of religion or science home with them in an attempt to impose comfort upon the messiness they might otherwise experience, but these are usually vain attempts. The messiness bleeds through. Something about us is wider than any discipline can contain. We are not entirely defined by the dominance of objects created within the outside world. We are aware of our island-hood, and the world we perceive externally is not, precisely, the sum of everything that we are, or might be. Even when we try to impose its order upon ourselves, our gut knows the difference. We will go into the applicability and validity of the discipline of psychology and neuroscience in subsequent pieces.

Language, that is extended to us from our culture, is the defining bridge to the external world. Our senses are also a bridge, but they lack any objective definitions without language. Our senses merely allow us to perceive and experience the external world. Language helps define common sensual experiences between us. The difficulty arises from the fact that our awareness is separated from the awareness that exists within other beings, and the only way we have to bridge these islands is a rickety structure composed of words. This is, perhaps, part of the appeal of mathematics — it is rigidly defined with only a small propensity for misunderstanding and error. However, mathematics is incapable of representing the spectrum that is the diversity within our inner lives. Though less prone to error, its vocabulary is utterly inadequate. We appear to be stuck with the uncertainty and error of language between us. And as an interesting aside, it is also fascinating to note that our understanding of these more pristine maths are formed through the messiness of language and what those words conceptually represent. But we’ll steer clear of that messiness for now.

Our inner experience is rarely what other people perceive. The inadequacies of language are not the only cause. Because of our uniquely individual craziness, we do not always construct language that is a true representation of our inner experience. Also, sometime we hear language differently than was intended, either because of that same uniquely individual craziness within ourselves, or the clumsiness of the person constructing the language toward us. And this is with truth as the backdrop. If we bring in the possibility of deception, we bring a wrecking ball into an already precarious and delicate environment. Unfortunately, for one reason or another, this is all too common and is the source of a great deal of the confusion that permeates our society. Deception is always willful, even when it is simply a will to ignore or disregard the validity of some known or perceived truth. In many ways, this is the worst deception of all. Silence, indifference, or disregard allows deception to perpetuate and flourish. It is selfish, and almost always meant for one’s own perceived benefit.

But what is selfishness, other than a word? How is it possible to say that selfishness is bad, when each self is their own isolated island? The answer is simple when you realize that other islands exist, and are every bit as important as your own. There are lots of people like you, living on their own crazy, isolated islands. Even when they claim they are not. Particularly when they claim they are not. And in that, paradoxically, even though we are completely isolated, we are all in the same boat. If I’m not mistaken, I think that some form of love might fit in well just there. And though love can be considered selfish, it also, paradoxically, is the furthest thing from selfishness. Isolation is, intrinsically, a lonely existence. Though some religions try, they cannot command love between islands. And deception always results in isolation. If connections are to occur, each island must, through its own self-awareness, become aware of its isolation and seek to bridge that isolation in ways that are not based in deception. Or instead, remain in isolation. Anything else is a power play through manipulation.

If a sense of mutuality can exist between islands then an awareness of isolation also exists. Some means will be sought to create bridges in the interest of that mutuality. But if a keen awareness of the isolation between islands exists, how can one possibly avoid having a more passionate response that necessitates creating the most intimate connections possible? Though this situation is rare, here we must take care to balance between the negative forces that stem from desperation and panic, against the far more positive and powerful forces that such passion can engender as a motive for the fulfillment with all its benefits of unity. And even this must be balanced against the necessity of distinction, from which the true beauty and strengths of humanity’s genius emerges. This is the beautiful aspect within the darker nature of Existentialism.

It leaves me asking, as I look out upon the world, what is really important? Between each of our islands, what bridges have we built, or allowed to be connected to us? In what ways does mutuality currently manifest itself? Is it truly proven that deception results in isolation? Does it matter to our isolation if we are the ones deceiving, or the ones being deceived? And the most difficult question of all, why does this state seem to remain, in perpetuity?

I suppose that our self awareness is one thing, while our interactions with the world is another. This is inherently deceptive. Perhaps we must do, to get what we want. It is the exchange of one price, at the cost of something else. I suppose it all depends upon the value we place on one thing or another. And now, I feel like I’m caught up in the mathematics of economies. It is an intriguing symptom.

In that warm, comfy bed of mine, though messy, I had a dream the other night. Some people say I was experiencing random firings of neurons, while other say I was “sifting” through the day’s information. Nobody can say much about the particles. I only know that I had a dream. There was a large, flat landscape seen at a distance, like the world. It ground was a reddish-brown, cracked, clay desert at twilight. Lots of people were walking about in between plastic outcroppings in the plain that were shaped like rounded tombstones, but had brightly-glowing and colorful neon symbols that flowed in pleasant designs. They densely covered the plains while people walked amongst them, absently avoiding collisions with these colorful objects. All our interactions flowed through them, yet we always avoided touching them. Circles were always the most prominent design on the tombstones.

None of this was unpleasant. However, it did make me feel a little like a radio controlled robot, and I knew that everyone else was feeling the same thing. Mountains were off far along the horizon. We knew we were a colony, of sorts, and there was nowhere else to go. As Burroughs would say, “The theater is closed.”

But I woke up and decided to write this anyway. I feel compelled. It might be love. Or maybe religion. But then again, nothing is certain. Right?

Just a bunch of words, tenuously tied to the intimate experience of our unique existence. You can see such awareness in some people. Others might never get there. Still others are terrified. It’s not easy, with such awareness, being deceptive. Unless you are completely ruthless. That is effective evil. And it exists. It is a purity of self-interest.

Mutual interest does not just happen as a by-product of self-interest. Mutual interest strikes deep into the chest. It is undeniable. It is a function of awareness. And that, in my belief, is the mountain to whose heights we must aspire. Any other basis is petty and inevitably mean.

Watch Your Money, Quicker Than the Eye

Magicians and magic shows no longer have the aura of mystery and intrigue they once did. Even sights appearing impossible are met with near indifference because we know there is a simple, reasonable explanation behind it, even when that reason is unknown. We are aware of our ignorance, yet are intelligent enough to understand that our ignorance does not give a magician any true magic.

The magic performed by magicians is usually a combination of diversion, distraction and sometimes even mentalism. This is performed upon we, the spectators or participants. This magic is an attempt to cause us to believe things other than the truth, so that the magician can benefit and we can be entertained. These magicians are also sometimes called illusionists. When they succeed, we believe things that have no basis in actuality. We believe things that are untrue. We believe false things.

Some people claim that everyone’s beliefs are equally valid. Where illusionists are concerned, this would mean that false things are true. If the illusionist is very good, true things might even be false. But when we go to a theater to see an illusionist, we enter a context where we expect illusion. In that context we can easily maintain our sense of what is true and what is false. Here, we expect that what we see and hear will be carefully choreographed to assault our sensibilities. We expect to be tricked. And because we have purposefully entered this known context, we are protected against trickery. We know that our ignorance will be exploited toward an end. That’s what we paid for. And in this context, it can be entertaining.

But what happens when we meet the illusionist outside the theater context, in the world where we know true and false with inherent certainty? In the theater we are vigilant, intently watching for any sign that might reveal the truth behind the illusion. In the theater we watch for the sleight of hand to be careless, giving up its secrets. And even when we discern no trickery, we are convinced from the onset of trickery. But in the streets, in the world outside the stage, few maintain such vigilance. We are a happier, more trusting people, in the world, that is a stage.

It is remarkable how we have come to create ideas and institutions collectively. Our social interactions at all levels depend completely upon shared beliefs. We evolve socially through collectively determining and agreeing to what is true and false, and to a lesser extent, though just as importantly, what is right and wrong. This process of collective determination is what gives rise to a society. And it is from this process of social formation, both ongoing and adaptive, that a sense and even framework of social justice emerges. As John Rawls says in A Theory of Justice, “If men’s inclination to self-interest makes their vigilance against one another necessary, their public sense of justice makes their secure association together possible.”

The trade and skill of illusionists rests primarily in the subterfuge of generally accepted truth. Perhaps there is an equally valid private sense of justice that can tip the balance of self-interest between people in favor of a certain group, who can, in turn, bring about even more secure associations between members of a society. A private, or hidden sense of justice. Of course, in the light of truth and reason, such obscure reasoning cannot hold. However, illusionists do not deal in the light of truth and reason. Their tools are distraction and deception, to cause the untrue to appear true. And they accomplish this quite reasonably. In fact, they depend upon reason.

But as we know, even well-reasoned things can be shown untrue, given enough devotion to the process of reasoning and the discovery of related truths. Reasoning is simply a process of logic. It is an empty pursuit without at least some objects of truth pulled from our collective baskets. Even with truth as our motivation, the more empty our baskets, the less likely our reasoning will be sound. The fuller our baskets, the more likely our success becomes. Illusionists have very full baskets. They are full of truth. However, their baskets also contain a a good many illusory objects. The tricky part is, these illusory objects are not necessarily false, nor true. They are illusory — a distraction. With these illusory objects in their arsenal, their process of reasoning can be formidable, because most of us don’t feel like carrying big, heavy baskets around with us. We carry just a few things in our baskets to help us along our journeys. And this helps us to think, well, if this person over here has all these many objects in their basket of reason, they must know what they’re about. I’m just happy with my little basket. So sure, I’ll believe it — I’ll play along.

I’m going to give you some objects for your basket. If you already have them, good for you. I know with certainty that at least five of you do, and two of those have some wildly screaming and thrashing eggs in there, too. Now you can both go hopping around pointing and shouting at everyone, “told ya so!” to your heart’s content. Just be careful what eggs you drop into people’s baskets, otherwise you’re not much better than the illusionists.

The last piece I sent out dealt with more humanistic aspects of our current financial situation. Many people were surprised that the trillion dollar bailout actually passed. Some of the more savvy wonderers question where we find this kind of money, to give to Wall Street. I can just imagine Scott growling, “we gonna pull it out of our ass!?” Well, pretty much. But not us, really. Treasury Secretary Paulson will tell the The Federal Reserve to pull the money out of their ass. We’ll just be going into further debt. There’s his signature, right next to George Washington’s face. The credit crisis, and we’re going further into debt to the bankers as well. You should see the interest they charge!

Paulson On Dollar

But wait, you ask, isn’t the Federal Reserve part of the government? Well, no. And yes. It’s one of the illusory eggs in their basket. The US Government does not create US money. The Federal Reserve is a collection of 12 regional banks around the country that are privately owned. The Federal Reserve can create money with a few keystrokes. Our government does not create any money, except for small coins from the US Mint. The Federal Reserve also controls the credit markets, which are currently in turmoil. The only ties these private bankers have to our government is a small board of finance people who oversee The Federal Reserve. These people, much like Supreme Court Justices, are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, only with 14 year terms. They generally outlast multiple presidents. However, after Bush’s election, some of the board members resigned their terms early for some reason, and the board is now filled with Bush appointees. They include bankers involved in the economic scandal, and economists of the Chicago School of Economics, of Milton Friedman fame. If you’re interested, you can read more about the Milton Friedman economic ideologies that first took firm hold during President Reagan’s administration.

By far, the majority of Americans do not know that the Federal Reserve is a privately owned central bank. Other banks own these banks, as do other people, both Americans and foreigners, and foreign banks. When US dollars are printed, we simply go into debt to these banks and begin paying interest. They like it when we give a trillion dollars to Wall Street. They also like it when they get to buy up other Wall Street banks, or other failing institutions. During the Great Depression, they planned ahead the takeover of the majority of US farms through mortgage foreclosure, where farmers instead became tenants upon their land. They also like taking out savings and loan companies, and any non-national banks. They like very much being able to control money, even as far as being the ones who create it from nothing. And they love war. We entered into the Great Depression almost immediately after their creation.

The Federal Reserve is far more a Wall Street institution than it is a US Government institution. The same holds true for the Bank of England, and most other European central banks. Their interest is not for the welfare of the people. Their interest is profit for themselves and for their constituents. They can take advantage of economies in our good times, and they can take advantage of economies in our bad times. They can also manipulate and steer the economy into trends of their choosing, while utilizing this foreknowledge. As such, all times are good times for the people behind the central bank. In fact, they rely on the “business cycle” of ups and downs, even the extremes of bubbles and depressions.

When these bankers create money from nothing, it appears in their banks. Then, they loan out this money and charge interest on that loan. Until recently, banks would loan out 10 timesĀ  more money than they conjured. Now, in large part due to Treasury Secretary Paulson’s efforts before he came to Treasury, these financial institutions loan out more like 30 times the amount, and collect interest on it all. They also foreclose when companies or people can’t pay.

So there you have a few big eggs for your basket. When you know this, and rationally consider our economic situation, it’s not at all such a crazy-seeming situation. It is all very sensible. It is also all very predictable when you are privy to the detailed financial reports of Wall Street, which we are not, after so much deregulation. These bankers can operate in relative isolation from any scrutiny.

Our nation’s history is filled with struggles between private banking and government. Several times in our history the US Government has created its own money. The Federal Reserve was, I believe, the third instance in which money creation powers were handed over to private people. It was created in the early 1900’s and shortly after its creation we entered the Great Depression. Like now, massive credit lending was the rule. During this time of massive debt, the Federal Reserve reduced the money supply, so there was no money for people, businesses, smaller banks, and farmers to pay their debts. Foreclosures were rampant. Like now, even though the major banks are infused with money, they are not releasing it.

Some people speculate that the business cycle is related to the Federal Reserve pushing money out into the country, then finding a way to get it for themselves. This is the boom/bust cycle. Other people claim that the Federal Reserve acts in the interest of all people, not just the bankers who comprise the Federal Reserve. These people view the Federal Reserve bankers as a benign and stabilizing economic force. It is a pretty egg.

Several US Presidents have fought against the private ownership of the nation’s central bank, as have many other prominent people. The history is quite fascinating. Thomas Jefferson even warned against any private individuals having such power over our money supply. He claimed that freedom would not be possible, since it would create two governments, the stronger of which was in the hands of a few private interests.

The history of privately owned central banks can be traced back to England in the 1600’s, with the founding of the privately owned Bank of England. Even before this, struggles existed between monarchs and the goldsmiths who produced coin and had a powerful influence. They also could manipulate the money supply. One king decided that he would control the money, and crafted a stick with markings that represented monetary denominations. Even though gold coin still existed, these sticks were the only thing the king would accept for payment of taxes. As such, the sticks were in demand, much to the chagrin of the goldsmiths. However, their coins still held value. The goldsmiths simply found it far more difficult to manipulate the kingdom’s economy.

Our President Andrew Jackson when asked what his greatest accomplishment as President was, replied simply, “I killed the Bank”. By this he meant the Second Bank of the United States, which was our second privately owned central bank. It was a terrible battle, though, between the President and the US central bank. The bank even provided Jackson’s political opponent with millions of dollars to help defeat Jackson. This spurred Jackson to take his campaign to the road, to the people — the first President to do so. His campaign slogan was “Jackson and no Bank”. Jackson was re-elected. The chairman of the US central bank, Nicholas Biddle, threatened to plunge the country into a depression if the government did not renew his bank’s authority:

“Nothing but widespread suffering will produce any effect on Congress…. Our only safety is in pursuing a steady course of firm restriction – and I have no doubt that such a course will ultimately lead to restoration of the currency and the recharter of the Bank.”

The US central banks called in loans and restricted the money supply, making no new loans. The credit market was effectively closed. Unemployment soared. Businesses failed. The banks foreclosed on property. And the US central bank started giving money to members of Congress for their campaigns. Newspapers began printing stories lambasting President Jackson, blaming him for the depression. President Jackson was even censured by Congress. But remarkably, Congress was unable to override President Jackson’s veto, which effectively shut down the US central bank. After this, Biddle was investigated, refusing to turn over any financial records. He died, with many civil lawsuits still pending on their bank. Andrew Jackson killed the Bank.

It was in 1835 that the Second Bank of the United States was closed. Also in 1835, President Jackson managed pay off the national debt, after having removed US deposits in the central bank in 1833, moving them instead to normal banks. This was also the year that an assassination attempt on President Jackson failed, with both guns misfired. It was also the only time our national debt was paid off completely.

Then, in 1913, the new privately owned Federal Reserve bank was created and handed back the money power. You know the story from there, don’t you? I’ll leave it to you to find your own new eggs for your basket, if you like. Oh, ok. One more egg. Both the first and second national banks were partially owned by the US government. We gave the bank 20% of its cash, for a 20% stake. The bankers then loaned themselves the money to buy their shares in the bank. And they started making loans of far more cash than they actually had. It’s a good scheme, isn’t it? Unfortunately, if any of us tried it, we would go to jail.

Which brings up an interesting point. What is money? When you ask business owners how much their business is worth, you’re always given the same answer: it is worth whatever someone is willing to pay, that sounds good to you, too. Money is much the same, particularly since it is no longer backed by anything real. If we agreed to it, hairs our our heads could be money. I’m certain the Hair Club for Men would be elated. Money is something we agree to. You can print your own notes, if you like. Last I checked, it is perfectly legal. However, if you are going to exchange products or services, you still must pay taxes, in the money of the realm. Somehow it is very appealing to think of a group of people coming up with their own form of money, just measuring how much they do for each other, in a simple, nice and open manner, free from illusionists. Taken even a step further, it’s just nice being able to do things for people. I wish that worked all-around.

But again, in case you’re still wondering what is going on in our economy, I’ll use a simple analogy. Baby, it’s just that the vacuum cleaner has been turned on. It’s a giant one, and the collection bag sits in the homes of a fraction of that top 1% of the people in the nation who already hold the majority of our nation’s wealth. All the rest is illusion. And so is my analogy, to a small extent, since the central banks of nations are interconnected.

From here, if you still have any interest, check out the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund. Pay attention to what is going on in countries like Iceland. Those poor people — I really feel for them. I hope so much that they find their own freedom and independence after the storm, though. I hope also that we all can gain some sense.

There is also a very long documentary on this subject out there. It’s about three hours long, but it’s packed full of good information, from a very irritating narrator. Money Masters, I think is what it’s called. Yes, it shows up on Google Video. It’s worth a look. It was made in 1995, and I’ve verified much of its content, though I can’t say with certainty about the whole thing. It smells of conspiracy theory. Just keep in mind that sometimes truths we don’t know can smell like a silly conspiracy theme. Personally, I don’t believe it’s a conspiracy. It’s just well played business, devoid of ethics. It’s the golden cow we worship, and the illusionist’s diversions.

Just look at them go! And while you’re at it, be vigilant. See if you can spot the “invisible hand”.

Government, Money and Us (just doing my duty)

You are an intelligent person. There are no stupid people on this list. If you are reading this on the blog, maybe you are stupid. I have no idea. I would like good things for us all, though. That is another thing shared in common with the people on this list. You are smart, and fundamentally a good person, and more than little beyond the pale.

In the culture of United States, being intelligent is not like being beautiful. In fact, if you are intelligent, and have some degree of humility, you spend a good deal of effort trying to hide the fact, almost apologetically. If you do not, you are considered an “asshole” by most, and that’s not so fun for we socially-oriented humans creatures.

Unfortunately, any pressure that causes you to “dumb yourself down”, resulting in silence, even in the interest of being “nice” to others, has consequences. Just look at all these quoted words and phrases I’m using. They’re like soft little cotton balls, you use to tip-toe around idiots, so I won’t be called “mean”. Intelligent people collect a lot of soft, logically fuzzy cotton balls over time. Probably for no other reason than they help us get laid.

For some reason several of you have put aside niceties when dealing with me. I’m not angry about that. In fact, I’m honored. There is no greater gift than a journey toward truth. Notice the lower-case “t” in truth. I don’t know the way, and you probably don’t either. But be assured, if you are reading this in your email, you are someone that at least can recognize truer paths and turns, and are someone who is willing to question what you hold dear, often down to the deepest places. I’ll even risk sounding patently ridiculous for a moment and say, that is enough for me to love you. It is a rare, vulnerable, and oftentimes isolating quality, being someone so open-minded. It is far simpler and easier on the mind to just close things down. Yet you choose to remain open. You choose to look around honestly. And most of all, you’re not afraid to be thought a lunatic. That’s why I love you, in the broadest sense of love. Perhaps it’s as uncomplicated as imagining myself the same, and finding validation that you are, too. I would like think there is a good deal more empathy involved, though. I know there is. Because if there was not, it wouldn’t be love.

So, we have enough of the pleasantries, and it’s off to the matter at hand. I am being hounded to write something on our current political and financial situation, and quickly, as some social overtone of urgency seems to dictate. My guess is that you are remembering previous politically-oriented writing, and are interested in hearing my 2 cents. Perhaps that is conceit. I’m going to go with it, though, and give you something political-ish, nevertheless. Mostly just to cover my ass, ethically, to do what I can do, when I can, in what way that I can. My apologies to those who do not wish to hear me blather on.

Interpreted broadly, everything we write or say has political force. I am aware of this when I write or speak with people. However, the meaning and scope of politics is not limited to solely to institutions of government that are structurally in force. In other words, it is not a government entity that is important. It is our thoughts, beliefs, values and our well-being that is important. Any government entity is simply an outwardly tangible manifestation of our collective will (or lack of will). And, like all orthodoxy, it is prone to manipulation and exploitation by twittering moths seeking the heat of our collective power. It is we, individually, who imbue any orthodoxy with power. We can do this actively by participating in it. We can do this passively by following along, keeping our noses clean. We can even do it inadvertently by just not bothering to think that a government is little more than orthodoxy — that without our collective commitment to an idea, that idea is meaningless and holds no sway.

No, this is not some back-handed promotion of anarchy. That would be a simplistic interpretation that stupidity requires. Saying that orthodoxy holds sway because people buy into it does not mean that orthodoxy ought to be eliminated. In fact, I have little doubt that we can accomplish the most amazing things by working toward our common good. And orthodoxy helps focus this. The question is, what manner of orthodoxy is currently holding sway over our lives? And can it be improved?

First, yes. I believe it can be improved. Nearly all that I write or say has this belief firmly seated within it. But in some way, engaging in governmentally-shaped political issues directly merely perpetuates that orthodoxy. In other words, if you use only the tools of orthodoxy, all you get is orthodoxy. Change must come into orthodoxy from the outside. Orthodoxy is incredibly resistant to change, yet at the same time, it is fragile. This is a characteristic of inflexibility. In this sense, the old metaphor is true: a flexible tree bends in the wind, where the solid tree breaks. Wind, from the outside, is what causes movement. And no, I’m not saying, do not vote. Voting and badgering our political leaders is all we have, unless we take up force. And taking up force would be a tragic and costly turn of events, particularly considering domestic wiretapping, spy satellites turned upon our own streets, and recent military deployments at home being trained to quell civil disobedience.

Instead, my approach is an attempt to help bring clarity, with a tacit belief that, with clarity, we are, perhaps, better people as a whole than we might imagine. In politics, the beginning of this clarity rests in the understanding that government is simply a somewhat solidified orthodoxy. And that all orthodoxy is subject to modification, though not without great resistance, and sometimes cost. I think few Americans now would say that change is not absolutely necessary. But what change? That is very difficult to answer without creating more orthodoxy.

So instead, I will ask a question. If you find someone unconscious and bleeding on your porch, why do you help them? Fear of liability? Fear of some law that compels you to under the threat of punishment? Is it fear that causes you help them? Fear has nothing to do with it. Fear would be ineffectual and possibly even counter-productive. The answer is, you are aware — a living being yourself. And you are aware of this other being, who is completely at your mercy. I ask again, why do you help him to live? Why would many of you even risk your own life to help him?

Each of us is endowed with awareness. You can call it your mind, or you can call it your spirit. We do not consider nearly enough how wondrous this is. You are aware. Alive. You learn. You respect other people’s awareness to varying degrees, based upon your own (prejudices). We would not let people suffer and die on our own doorstep. Somehow, we see ourselves in them. Mike might suggest this is a result of our brain’s mirror neurons that have helped us survive together, mutually, as a species. Whatever the reason, we help them survive because we wish to survive. All of us. We do not wish ourselves, or others, to die.

It is a different matter, however, when the person in need is thousands of miles away, made anonymous behind some abstract categorization of people. Perhaps this is how we determine people who have strongly developed mirror neurons; those of us who still manage see victims on our own porch, even at great distances. But even within our own country, close to home, where do we draw the boundaries of suffering? Does bleeding and imminent death mean that it’s okay to help, but barely having enough food to survive should be ignored? A heart condition that could easily be repaired should be denied, and the person left to slowly die, because the company they worked for went out of business? Sports stadiums should be built instead of housing for more than 10 million people currently out of work?

Our awareness glazes over when confronted with large statistics and issues. It’s hard to see an actual person when you say, 10,000,000 people are without work. That’s a lot of people either out on the street, or frightened they soon might be. Here are a few more glazing statistics, just for fun. 46,000,000 people in the United States have no health insurance. More than half of all bankruptcies are a result of medical bills. Yet strangely, Americans spend more money per person than any nation on the planet, far more than countries where medical care can be freely had, if needed. Our president vetoed a recent bill that would have provided, at least children, with health care, saying it was too expensive. It would have cost us $5 billion per year, for 5 years. It’s strange seeing that small number in comparison to $750 billion, which is something we apparently can afford. Some say, we are “investing” the $750 billion, not spending it. Just like we are investing another $85 billion to buy the country’s largest insurance company, AIG. Maybe some “financial genius” might find a way to provide health care, if nothing more than making it personally affordable, after purchasing such a giant insurance company, with all this other cash laying about, too.

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. We are caught up in something. It’s another orthodoxy. It’s called economics. If you think of government as one galaxy, and economics as another galaxy, you will find that they have long ago merged into one. But there is a devil in the details here. The merged orthodoxy considers economics to be synonymous with business interests, and therefore business interests are synonymous with government interests. This is not the case. Business interests are merely tied to economic interests, just as we, as people, are tied to economic interests. As such, what is good for business is not necessarily good for people, just as what is good for people, is not necessarily good for business. However, something bad for either business or for people can have adverse effects economically.

There is another galaxy in rotation, and although it is smaller than the galaxy of people, it is highly dense and gravitationally powerful. This is the galaxy of business interests. Business interests do not, by definition, care if someone is bleeding on the porch, unless that business interest will be adversely effected. Business interests do not have mirror neurons in empathy with people. Business interests are oriented toward their own self-interest, which is the accumulation of money and influence. Anything else is a by-product. It is extreme capitalism that exploits our greed, resting on the assumption that if everyone enshrines greed, our greed will somehow, inadvertently, make the world a better place. It does not even take an intelligent person to recognize the flaw in that logic.

No, I am not anti-capitalism. But here are some more facts. Economies do not require capitalism to function. Capitalism is not the same thing as freedom. Freedom can exist without capitalism. Capitalism has nothing inherent within it that makes a nation prosper economically, as a whole people. Capitalism encourages a Darwinian kill or be killed mentality of competition, with no ethical center. Capitalism reveres money and marketing popularity (power) while completely disregarding any moral or philosophical considerations. This can also be considered a benefit of capitalism. When you hear the word “freedom” in relation to capitalism, this is not freedom as people generally envision it. Freedom in capitalism means freedom for business interests, to avoid any restrictions placed upon their greed. In that sense, we have a very free society.

Now here it is important to distinguish that capitalism is not a political system. However, few would disagree that economic systems have not merged almost completely with political systems. As such, we can no longer truly distinguish our government from business interests. And business interests no longer possess loyalties to any country. Business interests are now multinational. The United States government is one part, although a large part, of global business interests. You can see this in the complaints we are hearing from other world government leaders, that our Congress must act by infusing business interests with our collective people’s wealth. And so, our Congress acts, while our presidential candidates line up to follow suit.

This is where I will loose many of you. That’s okay. I’ll be quick, then on to the more important stuff. Here are some things to keep in mind. Capitalism does not require that a lot of people have money. In fact, it is natural that just a few people will come out on top, just like any feeding chain. The concept of “trickle-down” is a myth. Especially in a global economy. Why would we have workers here, when we can get so much cheap labor in other countries? How could we hope to compete in world markets with the high labor costs of employing people at home? How would this effect world currency values, in relation to one another? The answer is simple: it doesn’t matter. What matters is making money, however and wherever you can. You will find that the truly influential business interests are not concerned, in the least, with any country’s, or their citizenry’s well-being, even the United States citizenry, despite any rhetoric to the contrary. Business interests do not recognize governmental borders. When it encounters any, it works to dismantle them.

Incidentally, this is how fascism arises, when business interests are thrown behind a person or government, and that person or government gives favors back, without regard to its citizenry. US business invested heavily in Nazi Germany, exploiting free prison labor. Yes, the Bush family was involved. Yes, the United States has more people in prison than any other country in the world, in the history of the world, and we exploit their labor. Yes, we are phone tapping our citizens. Yes, we can disappear people indefinitely without charge, and threaten neighbors and relatives with prison if they say anything. It’s called the Patriot Act. No, there is no fear of torture here. Of course private military contractors are bound by Posse Comitatus. But that doesn’t matter, because we’re now deploying the “real” military at home anyway, and training them to combat civil disobedience, amongst other things, with new, non-lethal weapons. Hmm. I did turn a bit cynical there.

Nobody ever thinks they will end up living in a fascist state. We may not. But it is usually wise to keep our eyes open. Have we veered too far astray in our discussion of business interests (money) and the people’s government? Perhaps. But let’s look at a couple more things, briefly.

We know that our political leaders cannot be elected unless they have a lot of money personally, or are supported by business interests. All attempts to break this truism have failed. Breaking the hold of money on our political system would require that we restrict the rights of private entities to speak their minds, in national ads, even if what their minds are speaking is merely propaganda. However, we could limit public servants from entering into business relationships after their tenure in public service. This policy has even been enacted, in a feeble and ineffective way. I would suggest that it might be prudent severely limiting our public servant’s options after serving their office. This would insure that only people truly interested in doing good for more than just themselves, would enter government.

But to the issue at hand, which, I imagine, has forced me to write this: the bail out. It is not complicated. Remember, our government currently exists for business interests, nothing more. The United States government serves business interests, or more accurately, people who gain membership in the power club. Anything else is a smoke screen. And Bill, don’t you even pretend with me.

We as people can invest. It is a wonderful thing that we can buy into corporations that we like, and that we think might do well, financially. That is what Wall Street used to do — they were the brokers who helped bring together buyers and sellers of company ownership. However, over the years, Wall Street has become far more. Today, Wall Street is basically the world’s largest casino, swarmed by gamblers and ruled by organized “crime”. You can sell things you don’t even own, hoping for an insightfully-predicted roulette spin that will gain you some cash. The companies no longer matter. How the horses perform, and their odds, does. The casinos have their godfathers, too. This casino is a significant contributor our gross domestic product. The financial services industry has, for the last couple decades, been the industry with the highest market value. However, recently, that market value has been crashing. This means that people are selling their stock ownership in such companies.

The first major dip downward in value started at nearly the exact time that Paulson left as CEO of Goldman Sachs to become the US Treasury Secretary. Within a few months of him taking over the US Treasury, the financial sector experienced a colossal rise in value for nearly a year and a half. They sold toxic mortgages to people here at home, and sold many of those mortgages to people overseas. In a curious turn of events, Goldman Sachs continued underwriting mortgages, while simultaneously betting against the mortgage industry. Their investors lost a lot of money, and some divisions of Goldman Sachs lost a lot of money, while other parts won big. The value of all these financial companies began to fall around this time last year. Now, the value of the financial industry companies are back to what they were about four years ago. And they want $1,000,000,000,000. The only main competitor to Goldman Sachs left alive today is Morgan Stanley, which is selling 20% of itself to Japan.

Now Secretary Paulson is known to have intimate connections to China’s wealthy elite. China has invested heavily in our mortgage finance markets, as have other nations around the world. An interesting deal-breaker condition for Paulson in any Wall Street bailout is that it must give him the ability to purchase any subprime mortgage ever written, even if it is held by someone who is not a US citizen. In other words, our casino mafia of Wall Street, which Paulson was a founder, sold Americans toxic loans, which they often, snake-ily re-sold and offloaded onto foreign investors. Maybe those foreign investors are angry. They certainly sound angry when you hear them on TV, demanding that our Congress give Paulson money so he can buy back those toxic mortgages. Remember, business interests are not concerned with countries and their citizenry. They are concerned with money. Paulson, Bush and Wall Street thinks that we should pay for these mortgages. However, many would say that this is a private matter, and in the interest of free markets, should be dealt with privately. It’s an interesting situation.

Jeff sent a neat video on this, which I’ll link to. The guy on the video is irritating (to me), but it has some good information. If you’re interested, you can view it on YouTube. It might be worth your 9 minutes. Thanks Jeff. And Dan. And Christopher. And Emil. And Warren. See, I’ve said something now, and done my part. And I have contacted my representatives.

But I hope I have managed to do more than just say, this is bad, we need to do this and such thing… I have little faith that we will progress in any measurable way, unless all of us make it a point to not only question and learn, but to also make the changes we need to make — on a personal level as well as societal. This money could, once again, easily build a national infrastructure of hydrogen and also provide every family with hydrogen storage tanks at their homes. Instead, we are extending tax breaks to the oil companies, which will mean less money for us. We have just passed the largest military funding in history. Yet we don’t have enough money to let kids go to the doctor. We have to piggy-back on Russia to get to the space station. And Wall Street continues the fight to get its hands on our social security money. Milk has doubled in price. Something is terribly, terribly wrong.

I have to ask, can you see what it is? And more intimately, can you see it in yourself? It just so happens that we have many bodies on our porch right now. The question is, are you going to help? And the bigger question is, when will get tired of these idiotic games and do something amazing with the people of this planet? I shiver at the potential we have. Let’s start using it!

I’ll Be Your Hero

David and Goliath

A few of you English majors will roll your eyes at me for saying this, but I used to love reading fantasy books. Notice that, in acquiescence, I said books, not literature. Then again, I’m being disingenuous. Because I know at least one of you lit types likes fantasy, too. Your secret is safe.

Jackie’s primary complaint with fantasy is that everything is made up. Nothing is real. She found it difficult relating to fabricated worlds with their wildly absurd political systems, the over-the-top wicked or good characters, and fairies. We don’t have any fairies here.

My retort was always, “well, isn’t everything just made up here, too?” I never said it was a good retort. I was still a music major, yet to be bludgeoned to death by philosophy. At least I can take solace in knowing, that at least on some instinctual level, I was on the right track. I never managed to convince her to read any fantasy, though. Unless she sneaked it, guiltily hiding her newly found, unseemly habit from view. It wouldn’t surprise me. Her focus was Victorian Literature, after all.

I never realized when I first started reading fantasy that one of my favorite aspects was the mostly distinct separation between good and evil. Of course, a good person can get possessed by some demon temporarily, committing evil acts, but you knew they were really just a victim; a good person, who made a mistake, or things were out of their control. The heroes are often normal people who find themselves caught up in extraordinary circumstances that never appear extraordinary at the time. They usually have no intention of being a hero and even resist it. They cannot imagine themselves heroes. Nevertheless, some nugget of good within them eventually drives them to sacrifice everything; their vocation, their family life, and even their self-interested desire just to live a simple life. They sacrifice it all, to do what they know is right — to do what must be done, even though they are convinced of their own failure from the outset. This is what makes them a hero.

We are inundated with marketing, spin and double-speak. It’s no wonder we have difficulty distinguishing our heads from holes in the wall any more. I’d like to forget about the hole in the wall for a minute, and focus on your head. And heroes.

Heroes can be anyone, but they are not just anyone. Heroes are not manufactured. Most heroes never know fame. Heroes do not have to kill people, or be killed. But all heroes are willing, and often do, sacrifice or risk everything they have or hold dear, in order to do what is right. And often, doing what is right benefits others while not necessarily benefiting the hero.

All cultures I know have the concept of a hero, with much the same definition. Something deep within our nature causes us to revere heroes and gain inspiration from their example. However, it is important to keep in mind that simply having reverence for someone is not enough to make them a hero. Being inspired by someone does not make them a hero. It only means that you like them, and possibly admire what they stand for, and may even wish to shape your own life accordingly. But unless they meet the requirements of being self-sacrificial in the cause of ethical truth, they do not meet the standard of being called a hero.

Does McCain’s capture by an enemy, and his survival of the ordeal make him a hero? No. It makes him a victim, who survived to live another day. We can be inspired by the story. We can be inspired by McCain himself, as the victim who survived. Does his supposed refusal to accept an offer of freedom from this enemy, unless all the other prisoners are released, make him a hero? Possibly, weakly so. It could also make him an idiot, since he could have left the prison camp and reported back valuable intelligence to our military forces that might have brought a quicker end to his comrade’s plight. I see no heroic qualities in McCain lately, at least. Which makes me question much of this legend. I also see no heroic qualities in Obama, just to be fair.

If you are a businessman who makes an innovation and tons of money, and you make all your employees rich too, are you a hero? No. If you join the military are you a hero? No. If you kill a bunch of Iraqis or insurgents are you a hero? No. If you risk your life to save a comrade are you a hero? Yes. If you risk your life to save a member of the Taliban are you a hero? Yes. If you leave your home on a quest to truly help people in need without any particular gain for yourself, are you a hero? Yes. If you blow the whistle on your boss, despite any sense of loyalty, when they are committing an act of “evil”, and there is no other recourse? Yes. If you are a leader or politician who stands up for what is truly right, despite what it might do to your career, are you a hero? Yes.

In fantasy books, much like in life, a true hero never considers themselves to be one. It is that quality of personal disassociation that gives them the moral clarity to perform acts of heroism. They have stopped thinking about just themselves. In the end, they are not so much concerned with their own life as they are about their effect upon the world, and other people, by their actions. Nearly any selfless act taken in the name of the ethically true is an heroic act.

The tragedy is, most of our heroes carry out their monumentally important acts without any acknowledgment. It is even common that lesser people often clamor to take credit for these heroes’ sacrifices and accomplishments, when events turn out well. This may be a sad blow to a hero, but that’s okay. Because the hero knows that what was truly important, they accomplished.

This is the story of the unsung hero. It is the story of some rare and few people, who are really very much like ourselves. It may be the story of best possible thing we can do with our lives. I certainly think the world could benefit from a few more true heroes.

It certainly is not easy navigating this world we have concocted — this fantasy we live within. Yet every day we are presented with opportunities to become true heroes. It is a fundamental characteristic of heroes that they live, in a sense, outside the structures most people find themselves within. This is often what puts them at odds, or at risk. And they willingly, though sometimes hesitantly, take that step into risk, for the greater good of all. Imagine what a different world it might be if people were more willing to take that step; to become heroes. All these people, standing outside of things, in the terms they know to be truly right. Standing outside of things, but still very much within each other’s midst.

One might be tempted to ask, well, what is ethically right, and subsequently dismiss any greater potential, because any answer must be arbitary. But I don’t know if the answers are really so arbitrary. I’m not so certain we have no idea what is truly the ethically right thing. What I do know is that heroes often make excuses to delay their journey. They don’t believe they are heroes, and they do not want to be. Yet somehow, the true hero eventually takes that step. And even unsung, such acts are the stuff of legend.