How many of your heroes died in poverty?
I guess this has a little to do with what you'd consider to be your hero. Is it a personal figure, family member, or a celebrity, or a political or historical figure? In order for someone to be considered a hero, we must believe they have achieved some kind of measurable success, but what success even means varies from person to person. Is it fame, fortune, power, health, beauty, family, strong moral character, happiness, enlightenment, as many of these things as possible for one person to have? That's tough to define, but I think whatever we identify as success has a lot to do with what we strive for in our life.
I think about what I want to do with myself; comedy, travel, blog, art. I want to make a living doing those things, but those are all paths that are notoriously impoverished. Part of me is fine with that; I'm a minimalist. I own as little as I can, and I don't want to accumulate much. My definition of success is just to live the way I want off of these passions of mine. They give me a sense of purpose. They drive me, make me ambitious. I would like to be able to do these things regardless of my monetary situation.
Coming to that realization made me understand something else; in order to do those things regardless of money, I would need influence. Okay, so what is influence?
In a nutshell, influence is the ability to have an effect on another person's behavior. There's two ways to have influence, then. One, as a method to elicit cooperation when no incentive is apparent, or two, dominate and force cooperation when there is no apparent incentive.
I think a lot of people, at least if I'm any indication, are inclined to like the idea of influence to incite cooperation. We're social animals, and generally speaking, social animals have adapted a survival strategy in which the individuals benefit the group in order to maintain numbers. It's pretty common among complex predators. Cooperative hunting has been adapted by everything from whales to wolves in order for their numbers to be sustained. The more the groups work together, the easier it is to protect and nurture their young as they develop, as the more complicated an animal is, the longer it tends to take to mature. Living in communities allows more complex organisms to develop and develop their young with less risk. In this sense, cooperation is implicit, and there's no real need for influence among animals.
Using animals as an illustration for human influence has its caveats. For one, the understanding of how the different social structures of social animals work is still being developed. It's no longer believed that there's an alpha male and female in wolf packs, for example. New evidence suggest that some alpha male primates are simply better at being social with all members of their troupe, because being likeable allows them to maintain their position when they get older and more likely to be usurped. Partially, our understanding of animals is too limited to really carry on the comparison, but likewise, we've done something with our sphere of influence to make it far more complex than a natural social group would allow for; we developed barter, and later, money.
In its origins, money was a great equalizer. It was a way to insure cooperation between different territories. Unlike animals, who would have to invade territories and take food from other packs, humans developed a system of barter so items could be exchanged peacefully. You have more meat, we have more pottery. Having an item to exchange was a method of influencing another social group or person. If you give me yours, I'll give you mine.
Barter leveled the playing field even further with the development of money that made different items equivalent in proportion to a standardized item of value, be it coins or cowry shells. By giving a material form to influence, and then standardizing that material so that it could be redistributed, we created a way to offer influence to people who had none. Shoemakers wouldn't have to starve just because the baker already had shoes. The shoemaker had money now from the merchant who needed shoes, which he could then offer to the baker and buy bread.
Money, in its infancy, was a great opportunity to encourage cooperation, but having this standard, material symbol for influence didn't come without repercussions. Stealing money from someone offered a far more effective form of influence than simply stealing their bread. Because it was standardized, money became capable of doing pretty much whatever someone wanted to do with it. Like a proverbial Klondike Bar, everyone potentially has a price for everything. If you have enough to cover it, you can control someone.
You could convince a mercenary to murder somebody for you, or, as we're more apt to witness, you could run the country. If you were born into money, it means you have a continued influence over people even if you have no real right, skill, or need to do so. With that capability, it's not hard to see how so many people seized an opportunity they simply would not have had if they weren't born into it. You could sway the way that nations were run despite the opinion of the masses, the opinions that are meant to influence the people in power.
A very blunt (and hopefully not particularly controversial) example of this is current Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
DeVos was born into the family of a billionaire, and is married to the heir of the Amway corporation. Devos has been politically active (in terms of education) since the early '00s and a consistent donor to the Republican party. To quote:
My family is the largest single contributor of soft money to the national Republican Party. I have decided to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. They are right.
DeVos' policies aside, and the fact that she has influence over public schooling despite never having gone to one or sent her children to one, she is openly admitting the divide that money as influence has created. She wanted power, and she obtained it through being wealthy. It's not something she worked for or has even really demonstrated any prowess at. The policies she proposes show little if any understanding of how education funding can help impoverished children or the consequences of charter school vouchers. To see what she does over the next four years will be interesting, and if nothing else, completely illustrative of one person's influence obtained solely through money.
If someone openly admits buying a political presence, does that then concede that in our capitalist culture, money is the only way to achieve influence? Did our creation of dollars and cents knock down basic human elements that make a person influential into the footnotes of someone's qualifications? What would the policies proposed by a teacher who simply ran on the backs of the support of people who believed they had simply figured it out, and is such a thing possible?
For that matter, can any position of power be considered sustainable without money as a concrete symbol of one's influence? We tend to reward positions of perceived prestige with more money (school teachers being one of the most bizarre exceptions). That's the difference to a comedian of selling out thousands of seats with name only compared to a small fry struggling to fill a local show not only with their name, but bribes to friends and family members.
We invented money as a way to level the playing field, but its development over time has left some pretty rocky terrain, but that's unanimous, right? Currency was developed in pretty much ever civilization, and we all have a way of using that system to our benefit. Turns out, yes and no. The rejection of money isn't reserved to millennial cynics and communists, empires and prominent influencers of history have found ways around it...
Amazon has developed a whole new way to shoplift with zero consequences.
You're still paying for whatever you're "stealing." If you didn't watch it, essentially Amazon Go is a store that replaces all checkout systems with technology that charges you as you shop through your smart phone. When you're done, you walk out, no line, no punching in the wrong key code so that your asparagus rings up as peanuts. It's less interaction with people. It's more convenient, cuts down on both labor cost and loss prevention (both from deviants at self checkouts and employee theft), which could potentially lower food costs.
I find this "face of the future" stuff very disconcerting. Not because it relies on technology but because it removes another human element. Sure, there are still going to need to be people to stock these stores (for now) but what jobs are created by a technology like this? Am I missing it somewhere? Is this a new opportunity for tech support, programming and white collar outfits, does anyone fill the spot that cashiers were in? Certainly, Amazon wasn't the first business to do this, and blue collar work is the tip of the iceberg.
Assuming that these new jobs are available, who are they available to? What kind of training do you need and how available is it to those who would potentially be unemployed by something like this? Maybe no one, the jobs would just shift from cashier to stocking. I don't know, I've never worked in a grocery store, and I probably won't apply to work at a Futuremart.
My job history has been pretty spotty most of my life. Right now I'm trying to set up a business that I wouldn't really be able to explain to anyone what it is, and before that I was trying to figure out how to do that, so most of my work history has been somewhere between vague and day job. That's an opportunity I have, and part of that opportunity comes from the fact that I live in Denver. This city isn't struggling.
We have invented a new economy. Not only did legalizing marijuana give us a whole new industry of jobs, it also gave us tourism appeal, not to mention an attraction for other business ventures to set up shop here. Work-from-home, tech companies, a lot of white collar came in with all of this green, and with them came the cash to start up a plethora of cottage industries.
Denver is brimming with breweries, small batch green chili stands and farm-to-table restaurants. We have clothing boutiques, apothecaries and farmers markets. We are a city who's economy has surged. We have enough tax revenue to improve social issues (whether or not they get done is up for debate) Denver is aggressively liberal and knows it. We can afford to shut down our main streets to protest our government. This is a city of children.
I bring this up, but it wasn't always like this. and that history is reflected in the names of our neighborhoods, in the infrastructure of our buildings. In 1925, Colorado was all but ran by the KKK. Famously, Mayor Ben Stapleton was an outspoken and endorsed klansmen. The Klan also nominated the Secretary of State, representatives in the House and Senate, a Supreme Court judgeship. They had influence in city councils. Effectively, they ran Colorado, the state now voted most likely to make a craft beer its state bird.
There are a lot of frightening parallels between the rise of the KKK in 1925 and the current political rhetoric. Klansmen weren't focused on being anti-black so much as they were touting a "return to Protestant values." That meant their main target wasn't necessarily racially based, but demonstrated a religious intolerance focusing primarily on Catholics and Jews. The Klan's new message heralded a return to Americanism, to law and order and fair election. They chastised celebrities and new media as purveyors of loose morals.
In a way, the Klan was touting that they would make America great again.
What does this have to do with Futuremart? Well, nothing, they're apples and oranges. What they can both illustrate, however, is the effect of progress. The movement of the KKK had died out about 2 years later; their attempt to "return to American values" wasn't any more effective than my disdain for a company replacing people with technology. These views are becoming relics, and they are becoming so because they do not progress.
We can't go back to the values of Protestantism any more than we can go back to living in the trees or dismantle the robots that took jobs. No matter what the most ideal path, it's an impossibility simply because we can only build on history, and it's unidirectional. History doesn't repeat itself, it reiterates like waves, it has momentum. For every great rise there is another fall, and assuming we can avoid one or the other by setting the clocks back is pretty naive.
I'm not suggesting that it's wrong to fight the powers you don't agree with. It's not the fight I'm concerned about, it's the outcome. You can't put up a fight that will win, in the long run, without there being an outcome that moves civilization forward. When we focus on our nightmare of leadership, or our social or economic issues, we can't simply be on course to take them down; we have to have a course of action or we'll just continue down the same current any way.
It's Tuesday morning, and I am very tired. The week has barely nudged into its beginning and I'm already looking down the remainder like it's the barrel of a gun. This is the haziest time in my life when it comes to knowing what the future may hold or feeling like I have any control over it. Am I going to be one of the relics, unable to qualify for work as work becomes more selective? Am I one of the millions of unnecessary humans? Hard to say.
Despite my disdain for our new economy, it exists and I have to coexist with it. Despite feeling powerless against a political system I have barely woken up to, I exist within it. Inevitably, they will both run their course and I will run with them. It's hard not to view this movement of history as one that leaves a lot of us washed up.
What is progress? It is advancement, it is growth. I think we could argue in the context of time it is simply moving forward. It's our choice to participate and how, regardless of where we're taken. I just wish I had some idea of where that meant I was going.
The mood yesterday felt a bit like America's dog died.
There was a lot of social media depression and rage, although if I'm honest with you I don't really get why people felt the need. It's social media; it's a tool for dissemination of ideas but rarely does it do well in an appeal to emotions. Maybe I'm cynical, but I felt little empathy for most of those outbursts. There appears to be some activism forming around it, which I'd encourage but we'll see where it goes. For the most part it's people doing what they always do on Facebook; let people know that they have opinions. Good for you, you should, but as I've said, those emotions are indicators. There is a lot more going on.
The biggest impact seemed to be on those who thought that they were already making a difference. People who thought there was no way an angry clown would win. People who worked in Planned Parenthood, in non profits. People who found religion to be archaic, who believed in the new healthcare system. Minorities, women, and the white knights were all howls, and maybe they should be, but I think in our shock we're missing the point.
This happened because for a very large population, this was wanted.
Don't deny that sentence. Don't suggest that it's the fault of people who voted for third parties or didn't vote at all. There is a huge part of the country that so far as we knew had been sleeping. We thought they were disinterested. Maybe in our cynicism we thought they were too uneducated or small minded to bother. We could have been too scared to reach out to them, too disgusted by the ideology to attempt to speak to it. Maybe we missed the point of the ideology; there's a population where Trump was their lesser of two evils. You don't have to be a bigot to be afraid of surveillance and economic collapse. For others, their world is small and doesn't extend far beyond their day to day and their family, and they wanted to be taken care of, or maybe left alone. There's no concept of the environment or the fact that they're acting with serious detriment to women and minorities; it's too abstract.
I don't mean that to be condescending in the slightest, by the way. This kind of goes back to the argument I made for and against vegans; for some people, you're arguing that the very way that they raised their families and tried to survive was wrong, because it hurt other people. Of course they're going to resent you for that; they're not, to their honest belief, hurting anything, they're keeping to themselves. They were painted by a liberally controlled media to be bumpkins and monsters. These people were ignored or dismissed for the exact inverse that brought them out to vote. They were spoken to, and appealed to in the way that they both believed and understood.
Anger and Grief are very powerful, but so far as monsters go, their vision is very poor, they rely on something else to give them direction. In this case, they were a body that was searching for a head.
We know through intellect, but we understand through our emotions. That's the joke we didn't take as a truth. Liberal America dismissed Trump as ridiculous, and subsequently ridiculed him. We ridiculed the people who said, "He says what he thinks," and pointed out how alarming that people could say that with support and listen to him talk about sexual assault. We joked but we weren't listening, we didn't understand the very thing we were critiquing. We were so confident in what we knew to be right that we didn't understand the opposition, which is effectively not understanding why you'd be right in the first place. These legs have been hollow the whole time.
In the rage a lot of you seem to be experiencing, you're doing the same thing. You're not listening to the people that elected him. You don't want to hear them, and now they've got the talking stick. Three of them, really. I'm interested to see where these protests go. I'll be honest with you, I have no faith in most of these attempts. For a lot of people, this was about the idea of something in which to have faith, religious or not.
I see how upset you are, but understanding why you're upset is more useful and offers a much greater sense of direction and purpose. Are you upset because an outspoken bigot gained power? What does that mean to you? More importantly, why does that sentence bother you? The obvious answer is because an outspoken bigot gained power, but you need to give that obvious answer meaning and context. What does it mean for that man to be in power, that the ideas which we find important are ostensibly a non-issue or wrong to other people? What does it mean about what you were doing before, the effect they had and how things have to change now? Being able to explain that opinion helps you with the harder part: finding the people who disagree with you and learning why.
Rage without target isn't useful. Emotion without critical thought isn't useful. For those of you who are afraid or in arms, don't forget the most useful thing you can do is question. Question your beliefs and theirs. Doubt dismantles dogma. If this is your system and it didn't work, you can't progress until you have some idea why. We have a new game to play, the consequences are incomprehensibly large.
It will be interesting to me to see how these shifts unfold. I wonder what mattered more to people, were they more interested in economic reform or were they more concerned about the social issues? We can't really know until it starts unpackaging. For now I am skeptical of the rhetoric, no one is listening that doesn't already agree with you and it won't do you any good until you figure out why. Protesting the results isn't going to change anyone's mind.
I wish I weren't so cynical, and I don't mean to make statements that sound like taking action isn't a good idea. You should be aware, you should be awake in your life and you shouldn't succumb to complacency. There is a difference between being reactive and proactive, and I am very unconvinced that most of what's going on isn't the former. My concern is we will do the same thing that breeds apathy to begin with; we will explode with ire and beat our fists into walls. We will accomplish nothing and we will be exhausted. We will have learned nothing because we weren't listening to anyone outside of our opinion. We're stuck in an echo chamber. It's the exact ignorance we pinned on other people.
I genuinely don't know what I think, I'm just inclined, for now, to wait, and more than anything, I will be listening.
Looking at how groups work as a whole rather than as individuals. Or something like that.