Thursday, September 11, 2014

Brokedown Palace

"Said it costs a lot to win, even more to lose..." Loser - Robert Hunter

I am sensing a lot of pain out there. Friends and acquaintances, at a stage of life where things should be getting easier, lazing around the proverbial fishing hole, basically now penniless, thrown out in the street.

Moving back in with their siblings or their aging parents in some cases, sifting through dumpsters. Wasn't supposed to be like this. As Robert Sommers recently said, survival is the new victory, for many of us anyway. And I predict a great new wave of depression chic.

There is a real sea change going on in the nuclear family, evidently income inequality or whatever is driving us back to a multigenerational model of housing. Big boomer generation may not go as gracefully into the nighttime as their predecessors once did.

I am reading Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers and he shares some stories about an italian town in Pennsylvania, Roseta, that has a multigenerational social rubric and where things go on pretty swimmingly, at least in matters of health. So maybe it's not such a bad idea, living Iroquois style in our family long houses. Definitely need a larger bathroom.

Not to get off subject but the book is mildly interesting, he makes the supposition that you have to put 10k hours of work in to become good at anything. Said Mozart never wrote anything worth a shit until he was twenty which may be debatable, Bobby Fischer managed in 9k hours but he was a decided anomaly.

Talent and genius, according to Gladwell, are subservient to good old fashioned american stick-to-it-ness and hard work. So you folks trapped at 9500 hours, the message is to keep plugging, baby, your ship is ready to come in.

Eric Erickson, the conservative blogger, raised no small ire last week when he intimated that if you were working a minimum wage job past the age of thirty you need to come to grips that you are a loser with a capitol L.
“The minimum wage is mostly people who failed at life and high school kids,” Erickson said.
“Seriously, look. I don’t mean to be ugly with you people. What? So my producer from my show is in here and he's just staring at me, can't believe I said this. If you’re a 30-something-year-old person and you’re making minimum wage you've probably failed at life.”
Erickson dismissed the idea that some of those people may have just been down on their luck. “It is not that life dealt you a bad hand,” he said. “Life does not deal you cards. It’s that you failed at life.”
Now I take umbrage with Mr. Erickson. Although I have not personally made minimum wage for quite some time, I don't take pleasure in the misfortune of those people that are forced to. Better than being on the dole or stealing. People do what they have to survive. No sin in losing.

Lets face it, some of us just aren't cut out to be alpha predators. And the simple fact is that the game has now become rigged, it runs like the casinos, on a steady stream of losers. The big fallacy is that there is a seat at the table for everybody. There is not.

© Dorothea Lange
The income gap started flexing its muscle with the Reagan tax change in 1987 and is almost finished with its job of destroying the American middle class. We can go back to patrician and serf classes, polishing the master's hood ornament while they are off shussing the moguls in Gstaad or something.

I got an earful from a friend the other day about what he considered a general anti business tone of this blog. Perhaps that is a fair assessment. He specifically didn't think I was fair to Proctor and Gamble about the little plastic pellets in some of their toothpaste. Said that he doubted that they are being ingested and that if it was okay with the FDA it should be fine for Proctor and Gamble.

I am no health expert but have talked to several dental professionals who were alarmed about the polyethylene and who could envision a scenario where they were in fact ingested.

I guess I don't trust government or Big Business. Having been in and out of a cancer fight much of my adult life, I think that there is a lot of stuff out there that scientists have blessed that is killing us. Maybe I just an alarmist but I see scientists that are bought off all the time. I think that you need to keep your eyes open and keep your own counsel. Don't eat plastic. There, I said it.

I was pretty wealthy once. Thought I was retired at 35. Divorce, cancer, government takeover of my bank and the theft of 12 million dollars from the family company showed me how quickly one's plans get changed in this world. I don't care how smart, rich or talented you are, life has a way to conspire and any of us can be on our ass in about 10 seconds.

And while I rebuilt my life, I now can pay most of my bills, eat great food and occasionally take a vacation, it is not easy for me and for many/most of us. I can't remember a recent time where I haven't stared dumbfounded at the wall figuring out how I was going to work it out in any given month.

And I have lost a lot of drive. The drive to kill that most alpha success stories share. Like the race car driver whose performance suffers and is never the same after the first big crash. Mortal...

When I did have money maybe I wasn't real good with it. I gave a lot away, a sucker for a hard luck story, somebody doing worse than I was. The cancer alerted me that life was a short movie, where people mattered and not much else and the spell got broken and I was destined to live the balance of my life as a shlub.

My friend who busted my ass on the toothpaste called me a lousy businessman the other day, which stung, but he said that it was excusable because he could tell from my writing that I was obviously a tortured artistic type. Pain becomes me, as that Robert Sommers guy once said. If I didn't spend so much time pissing off the only people who were financially able to buy my wares I might be better off.

Who knows?

Got to double down, work harder, try not to miss any opportunities.

If you are a winner at all this, consider yourself lucky, talented or blessed. The rest of us salute you. But try not to rub our noses in it. What is the old chinese proverb, conduct your victories like funerals...

I saw a very interesting graph in the New York times the other day about Ferguson, Missouri,  relative to its neighboring communities, many with very similar demographics.

The average citizen in Ferguson gets one and a half warrants for what are termed petty offenses a year. Because that is how the city gets funded. That works out to close to three per household.  And people get behind the 8 ball and can't stop the can't pay cycle and pretty much live in bondage. No wonder the place blew up. Treat people like animals and they tend to act like animals.
Thomas B. Harvey, executive director of the Arch City Defenders, said the changes were about three-quarters of what they had requested. “Although it’s not exactly what we asked for, it’s a substantial step forward,” he said.
Ferguson, a city of just 21,135 people, issued 24,532 warrants for 12,000 cases last year, the group said in a recent report. That amounts to three warrants per Ferguson household.
The city’s traffic fine revenue has increased 44 percent since 2011, city records show. When drivers who could not pay failed to show up for court, the city issued warrants and increased the penalties.

Do you realize that if you acquire sufficient political power you basically get to control history? Read this fascinating story in Politico. Truly Orwellian.
Texas students may soon be reading in their history textbooks that the American system of democracy was inspired by Moses, segregated schools weren’t all that bad and taxes imposed for programs like Social Security haven’t measurably improved society. The standards require teachers to emphasize America’s Christian heritage, praise the superiority of the unfettered free market and introduce students to conservative icons such as Phyllis Schlafly and the Heritage Foundation.
David Bradley, a board member who helped write the standards, said the textbooks are supposed to reflect the standards, and the standards are set by the politicians who win election to the board.
There is an interesting process of historical revisionism taking place across our planet. Last week, the staid old british warhorse, The Economist, issued a book review castigating a writer for an American History tome that didn't take into account all the positive aspects of slavery. After an incredible uproar, the review was pulled. What's next - Hitler, the good years?

One of my favorite quotes you will not find in any google search. But I was there and heard it with my own three ears. Grateful Dead, Bill Graham memorial. Ken Kesey, Halloween, 1991. Around the 42 minute mark, Kesey talking about losing his son and the Brokedown Palace.

 "In any given situation there will always be more dumb people than smart people. We ain't winning."


Anonymous said...

We had a nice interlude after WWII. Folks were really determined to put measures in place that would stop future conflagrations. The US was the only one left standing and we hadn't had our cities torched like Europe and we hadn't been colonized for a century and a half so there was plenty to go around and things were ducky. These days I think the horrors of real big wars are forgotten, the US isn't the only industrial power and the world economy has slowed down to its more typical sluggish pace. Depression is the expected outcome for the lucky the rest get disease, famine and war as it has been throughout most of history.
Got Messiah?

Anonymous said...

Nice entry, Robert. And screw the guy who said plastic pellets in toothpaste is fine. He probably thinks you'd have to be stupid to swallow even a small amount of toothpaste, but he'd be wrong. There is a long list of PubMed articles that show people almost always unknowingly ingest some amount of toothpaste while brushing their teeth.

Anyway, I'm glad you're on "our" side. ;-)

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Too bad depression cannot be monetized. L