Archive for the ‘materialism’ Category

We need each other

2017/08/11

Thinking about socialism, and socialist countries got me to consider the countries in the far North, like Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Canada.  These are places where people have to count on each other for survival, and work together to get through winters.  In more temperate climates, people exist without having to share, and can get by without being checked up on by a neighbor.  Going off the road in a car does not mean danger of freezing to death in most of the U.S.

The less we feel part of a community, the less we will sacrifice for that community.  As we become more wealthy, we are reluctant to share that wealth with those we do not consider part of our group.  We have got to realize that we are in this together, and that we will need each other at some point in the future if we want to pass anything on to  generations to come.

The contribution that we make may be small, perhaps only a moment out of a lifetime, but that moment will be a critical one for everyone.  We all have worth, and we need to be reminded of that, frequently.

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The Better Wealth Care Act

2017/06/25

The Republicans in the Senate are scrambling to pass a bill gutting the health care system in the United States before anyone can examine it.  The bill was drafted in secret, without input from doctors, insurance companies, hospitals, or those who it will affect.  The primary purpose of this bill is to allow taxes on the very wealthy to be reduced.  Those taxes have supported the expansion in Medicaid which has allowed millions of people access to health care for the first time in their lives.  (I don’t consider emergency room visits to be ‘access to health care’.)

What the Republicans are basically saying is “we don’t care about you, you little grub.”  They don’t feel a part of the community, because their wealth allows them to survive outside of the community.   Our society is under attack by people who are afraid of society, of community, of sharing the surplus.  They don’t view the average person as a person, but as bunch of numbers; productivity, age, pay rate, etc.  People are a resource to be mined, exploited, used up and thrown away.

The supporters of this bill are not concerned with health care, they only want wealth care.  More tax breaks to the people who would never be able to spend all what they have.

Greed Kills!

2017/06/21

London experienced a horrible fire recently, when a 24 story apartment building caught fire and burned rapidly.  So far, 79 people are either confirmed dead or missing and confirmed dead, and the death doll may go higher.  I happened to be reading the New York Times at the time that the fire was reported, and the video that I saw was terrifying.

High rise buildings are designed to contain fires to their starting point, so that people have a chance to get out.  This building burned like it was soaked in gasoline.  Seeing a multi-story residential building burning from top to bottom is utterly wrong, never supposed to happen kind of stuff:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LKe2I-s_AQo&index=1&list=FLT0coajYwPzUbTWP5a9lTEQ

From the first, people who lived in the building were saying that the cladding,  which had been added during a 10 million pound renovation as insulation, had burned rapidly, spreading the fire from a lower floor to the top floor in minutes.  Additionally, the building only had one fire stairwell, and there was no central fire alarm system.  As the building had been built in 1974, it was not required to have sprinklers.  That anyone escaped at all is mostly due to the presence in the building of many Muslim people who were awake preparing their Ramadan meal and spread the alarm.

This horrible tragedy was completely preventable, and most certainly is the result of criminal negligence.  Terrorism is an act meant to force people to change.  Setting people up to die  by saving a few pennies is far worse.

Wanting Change

2017/06/07

Americans by and large want to see changes in their country.  They see many problems that should be addressed, they see large amounts of money disappearing into government treasuries, and they wonder if they will be employed in six months.  Change is happening, but not very often for the better.

The changes that we need are ones that deal with our selves, our expectations, our hopes, our strengths, and our weaknesses.  Understanding that we need to work together to achieve things, so that we can combine our strengths to counter our weaknesses.  We have been trained to crave physical, material, monetary rewards in lieu of all else, yet we need spiritual rewards as well;  the pride of a job well done, the thrill of achieving a goal with teamwork, the feeling of being included when part of a group working together.

Even more so, we need the emotional and spiritual energy of sharing good times with others, excitement and novelty to inspire creativity, and affirmation and recognition to develop self-esteem.  We need to open up to our spiritual side, the side of how we treat each other, and how we treat ourselves.  All of us have worth, all of us contribute somehow.  Treat yourself like you would treat a good friend.  Do not fear change.

The West in crisis

2017/05/07

France teeters on the edge of a anti-Eurpopean revolt, the United States seems locked in a internal war, and England has decided to leave the European Union, which it was never completely a part of.  Spain, Italy, and Greece, the foundation of the Western mind, are trapped in financial suspended animation.  Germany’s premiere auto maker admits to designing vehicles to cheat on emissions tests.

Social issues, such as financial in-equality, health care, and retirement benefits are becoming very important in the U.S., eroding the dominance capitalism has had for the last 150 years.  Church attendance is at all-time lows, yet many people are interested in spiritual growth.  Evidence indicates that Russia meddled with the American election, throwing the result into question.

The acceptance of capitalism and materialism in areas outside the West is very troubling, because they are not working very well in the West.  Greed for ever increasing profit, disregard for environmental issues, and lack of sustainability are becoming trademarks of the Western world.  The West consumes the majority of the world’s resources, yet represents only a fraction of the world’s population.  That is unlikely to continue, especially as countries like China adopt automobiles in place of bicycles.  We all are going to be riding bicycles soon, I think, and we will consider ourselves lucky to have them.

The wrong stuff

2017/05/01

America was made great by companies working together with employees to build products which would last and last.  America was made great by governments investing the public’s money into roads, bridges, and water systems.  America was made great by working people sacrificing part of their lives to an employer, or by people who built their own empires from the ground up.

America is being destroyed by greed, the belief that work is somehow demeaning, only fit for inferiors.  Greed which drives corporations to focus on practices which drive away customers; cutting costs often means cutting staffing, so there are fewer people to provide customer service.  The emphasis on profit has become obsessive, driven by shareholders who demand an income from lending money to a company.

Capitalism may have been great during the early years of the United States, but it is doing great harm today.  Wealth is so concentrated that the economy is capsizing.  Debt is considered an essential financial tool, instead of last resort.  Banks no longer are lending depositors money, but money from investors hungry for immediate rewards.  Many dwellings are mortgaged for more than they are worth, and there are vacant homes all over the country.

Taking care of the people should be the most important aspect of society, insuring that there are healthy, educated, well-fed people to perform the work needed to support an advanced society.  Single-payer health care is an essential aspect of an advanced economy, protecting the employer from the costs of employee’s health care for life.  This health care should include dental, vision, and behavioral aspects, as the prevention of problems is far cheaper than dealing with the problems.  Providing minimal housing is another essential government role, insuring that everyone can sleep indoors if they want to.  We don’t need a three-bedroom home for every person, but a shipping container can provide superior protection from the elements for a very small price.  How you fix up the inside is up to you.

Taking care of the people is like taking care of your car.  Unless you don’t care about costs, taking care of tools, vehicles, or plant and equipment is essential.  People are our most valuable resource, and we have been exploiting people without mercy.  The rewards for submitting to the constraints of employment have been diminishing for decades.  Our spiritual lives are frequently empty and barren, amidst a society obsessed with material things.

Our culture  of greed is making people sick, to the point of killing each other, and themselves.  Our society is destroying us, exploiting us to death.  We cannot go back to earlier days, nor can we afford to continue as we are.  Change is inevitable, and the longer it is delayed, the more disruptive it will be.

Debt: Destroying us with money.

2017/03/14

“Money and debt make it possible to influence people without having public executions.” Justin Michael Barnett 2017/03/14

Money has been fundamental to human development. Debt has been an instrument of mass destruction, which is ravaging our society, our entire planet right now. Debt is funny money, money which has not been made yet. However, debt can be recorded in American accounting as an asset, increasing the monetary worth of the lender, even though collection of a certain percentage of debt is impossible. Debt is the American contribution to the world, a slavery made possible by using material things as a basis of our self image.

Americans probably were not the ones who came up with the idea of a company store, where employees can charge food and other goods to an account. The company never paid quite enough to get by on, so most of the employees were in debt to the store. But if they quit, they would have to pay off the company store. American companies went into Nicaragua, bought up most of the countryside, and planted bananas. Then the locals were offered employment with the banana company, (Day-O! Daylight come and me want go home.) or they could starve. Or move.

But that was not the worst. In order to keep consumerism from collapsing due to the American public having spent their savings completely, easy credit was introduced. Debt. This was a creation of the banking industry, the idea that someone would be allowed to purchase something with money that they had not earned yet. The idea of individuals being able to borrow money is exceptionally recent, compared to the immense history of banking. But then, so is the economic model of consumerism, which is the structure of the American economy.

As consumers, we are expected to consume. However, we are not making enough to consume very much, in spite of how cheap everything has gotten. Things are so cheap because they are made from American materials shipped half way round the world, processed into goods by people making a dollar or two a day, and then shipped back to the United States. That is a simplistic generalization to illustrate the insanity which prompted manufacturers to abandon a labor market which demanded health care benefits, retirement benefits, and vacation time. Calculating the worth of products in money makes it seem worthwhile to ship materials to China to get finished goods back. There is no monetary way of calculating the value of jobs, health care, extended families, and happiness.

Those are some of the things that we have lost because of money and materialism. We should also include the environment, courtesy, patience, and sharing. Money allows us to live outside of the community, not dependent on group resources to survive. Debt shackles us to the past, destroying our future.

Stopping the pain

2017/02/28

Most people I know are hurting in some way, spiritually, emotionally, physically, or in other ways.  Life seems to be needlessly complex, and drains us of energy.  We often do not feel like our work is of value to anybody, and getting rewarded for what we do is frequently inadequate and materialistic.  People all over the country are losing their sense of community, withdrawing from society, becoming increasingly isolated.

Most of us are doing the jobs of three people, yet our pay is the same as it was 30 years ago, correcting for inflation.  Wages should have grown as productivity increased, but the capitalists kept them low, choosing instead to pocket the increased revenues.  These are the same people who decided to send jobs overseas so that they could increase their profit margins.  Those decisions were made without regard for community, or society, and were driven by pure greed.  Everyone was making decent money back in the 1970’s, but then thefts began.  Retirement funds held by unions, Social Security, trusted companies, all were ripped off, or ripped us off.  Social Security was the biggest heist in history, billions of dollars stolen from the fund that was supposed to pay out the benefits.  Enron was responsible for thousands of elderly folks to lose their retirement savings, along with Tycho, General Motors, and several others.

Greed is driving the push for ever-greater profits, a lust for money beyond reason, a desire for money that cannot be satiated.  People who believe that they are above having to work, because they have invested their wealth so that they can receive dividends.  Their neighbors used to live on interest from their investments, but the banking world is upside down now, and banks don’t pay interest anymore.  Banks are upside down because nobody is saving any money, like they used to.  Who can afford it?  A friend of mine said the other day that most of the people that she knows are one crisis away from losing everything, because they have no reserves left.  Can’t use credit cards anymore, the interest is so high.  If you can get one.

Only new hires, or teenagers, should be working for the minimum wage.  People should be earning more, so that they are not struggling to survive.  They should have the chance to do a good job, one that they can be proud of, rather than be forced to turn out shoddy merchandise or poor service.  We all need to remember that we need community, feeling connected to each other, sharing with each other.  These are things that government cannot make happen by passing laws or creating regulations.  These are things that capitalists should be doing anyway, to protect their most valuable resource, people.

Gobbling us up

2017/02/16

Probably the greatest danger we Americans face is not terrorists, nor is it a president who acts like a terrorist.  Illegal immigrants are not the problem, unless they refuse to show up to build the Wal.  I mean Wall.  What is behind so much of the misery and despair right now is plain old Greed.    Instead of being rewarded for the enormous contribution that they have made over the last 50 years, workers have seen wages stagnate, benefits shrink, and workloads skyrocket.  The average wage should be about three times what it is right now, regardless of what the minimum wage is.  Were wages this high, economic activity would be much greater, with more consumption of goods and services, as well as more people owning their homes.

Somehow, we have to get the 1 percent to spend their money on us.

Racing to ruin

2017/01/30

Perhaps we do need to scale back on the imports, and start producing more things here in America.  Things like steel, carbon fiber composites, and wood substitutes.  The stuff we are importing is cheap, and of poor quality.  Big surprise, right?  Of course, we can’t lay all the blame at the feet of the foreign workers.  They have to work with what they get, and what is specified by their multi-national bosses.

When the parts that you are supplied with are made with soft steel, then the product you are building will not last.  Costs have been cut until mere pennies are fretted over and pondered.  All in the name of profit, ever increasing profit.  The materials that we are having to work with, the fasteners, the frames, the motors, are all of poor quality, regardless of the brand.  Doing a good job is becoming increasingly difficult.

Everybody wants things to get better, but few people are willing to sacrifice to make that happen.  We are going to have to pay more for products, or settle for lower quality, much lower quality.  It doesn’t matter how cheap something is, if it can’t do the job.  Even the premium brands are having their stuff built overseas, because paying a reasonable amount to have the work done will cut into profits.  A pair of boots built in the U.S. would cost about 100 dollars to manufacture, and would be sold for nearly $200.  When production was moved overseas, the quality of the leather decreased, the workmanship was sup-par, but the boots still cost $200, even though their cost to manufacture had dropped to about $30 dollars.

People began to turn away from that brand of boot,  and the company had to bring production back, and sell at cost for a while to reclaim market share.  Management is the greatest threat to the well-being of companies these days, I believe, as tried-and-true methods are tossed out in favor of more ‘economical’ ways.

You paid people a good wage and bought good materials, you would have a good product, worth the money.  People would associate your name with quality, and become loyal customers.  Nobody got rich doing it that way, but everybody made enough to get by on and be comfortable.

The obsession with getting rich in a hurry is pushing America into a downward spiral.  Because someone usually loses when somebody else gets rich in a hurry.  Huge fortunes were acquired in the early 2000’s, as people began to buy and then sell houses rapidly.  That led to a mania about flipping properties for profit, which created a big demand for new houses.  Until somebody realized that no one was moving into these homes.  The American homeowner took a beating during the Great Recession, and many people lost their retirement.  But money was made in quantity for a while, without having to work.  How real was that money, if so much of it vanished overnight?