Epic Narratives

We should start trying to bring epic narratives back.  They seem to have gone to the way-side because of all of the issues inherent in them. Yes, there are a lot of problems that came with our old epic historical narratives but just tearing them apart does very little. Instead, I think we need to try to re-write them for U.S. society. 

By epic narratives, I mean the huge historical narratives, there is a small book trying to do that now called “The Jungle Grows Back” in which it builds a historical narrative for U.S. international relations; how it is important, how it is changed and how that affects the world.   One Russian geopolitical writer is doing the same thing.  I would argue that we need one for society as a whole, some sort of narrative everyone can believe in can lead to poverty being considered “the moral equivalent of war” as so many people would like it to be. 

That sort of narrative would be able to re-bind the U.S., I suspect that sort of narrative is what some Trump supporters were looking for and there is not an equivalent elsewhere besides a narrative of “we are not Trump!” or some other equivalent. The problem is one cannot build a narrative through absence, narratives have to be positive creations.

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Growing Up A Boy

What if our society worked to raise men, instead of just boys?

What if boys were also given truly positive role models for what to try to become and were allowed to be boys?

Coming from a position of the generally “nice guy,” you know, the one that finishes last all the time, I know having to sort all of this out relatively alone and without any reference sucks.

Where I am right now highly esteems sports across the board so I will be referencing that since I am somewhat lazy like that.  Imagine being a boy in such a world that focuses on sports of all sorts for males: football, basketball, baseball, hockey.  All the while going through a school system that ends up having “introduce a girl to engineering,” “women in STEM,” etc. (interestingly no one does a “introduce a boy to art/dance/reading” the more female dominated side) programming, girls being the leaders of various organizations because of wanting to empower them/they can do it since the boys are too busy being preened for sports.  All of this, it would seem, begins to tell the boy(s) that they are not really useful for anything except for sports and/or playing video games.

Then, look at our sports figures and video games; I challenge you to find positive role models.  Mix this with being in a single-parent home for a good portion of boys: I foresee some issues in the future especially if the boy does not fit the mold of being a good all-around athlete.  That would leave video games as the main place to learn about things which, I think, most everyone generally agrees probably is not the best place to go.  Where else do they have though?  Boy Scouts is losing membership, (2014 annual report claims 885,000 boys 11-17, 2015 claims 840,654 while back in 1997 there was over 1 million ) and, well, there is no other program specifically targeted at boys that I can think of or really find from a brief online search.  There are combined programs yes but, I am willing to bet that those programs are going to generally be led and geared towards girls still.  Yet, there seems to be some confusion as to why boys are not growing up, participating in society and in general, not seeming to be adjusting well.  Perhaps teaching to the whole boy just like we try to teach to the whole girl could be beneficial?

 

Small Town Economics

As I spend more time in a small town and compare it to my experience(s) in cities and even just regions closer to larger population centers, I am starting to learn one of the primary problems in small towns: lack of competition.

I mean lack of competition in an individual sense.  There is no need for self-improvement or even, maintenance of quality in small towns for many positions just because there is no one else to take that place if it is an essential job.  For example: middle management of any business.  Once an individual gets into that sort of position in a business that stays stable within the community and can get comfortable, they really have no need to improve themselves or the business really.  No other business will likely move in due to it being prohibitively expensive to move in and start a new business and there are not many new candidates moving into town to cause competition in the field itself for promotions etc.  So, it becomes very easy to fall into a “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” attitude about everything.  This hurts small towns most when it comes to leadership.

Having dynamic leadership is one of the best ways to promote expansion, development and improvement I think, having managers/mayors who are always willing to try new things and help those below them become more capable.  Dynamic leadership happens when non-dynamic individuals filter down/are limited in their promotion abilities because of competition or cannot get into higher levels due to a lack of initiative.

A mayor and/or board which is not dynamic, not curious and willing to look into new ideas and not really in competition because of no one else running for those elected positions ends up leaving a town stagnant.  The stagnant individuals essentially create a ceiling of potential and end up pushing those with more initiative, abilities or curiosity out and away (this tends to be associated with the younger generation) which then means that there are fewer opportunities which leads to even more people leaving essentially filtering down to those with the least amount of dynamism or initiative so that those who stay end up being the people who get up, go to work, come back and just sit in front of the television and doing nothing really at all with their spare time and becoming unhealthy and disconnected.

The question then becomes, how can small towns reverse this cycle now that it has generally started?  The obvious solution is to get more people coming to promote competition but, they need to be able to have a viable life there, which is very hard to do since it seems that most of the possible work in small towns is either healthcare or construction related, with the latter requiring driving where it could be more efficient to simply live closer to the worksite.  Thanks to cars, small towns are not self-sufficient anymore with small stores employing small amounts of people in the town to service everything unless they have some major industry which has yet to move away or is not mobile.  The problem with those industries is that if they could move they probably already have at this point and those that are not mobile tend to be seasonal (agriculture, waterways, tourism).   Seasonality does not make for a stable life, especially without being able to get land for oneself either.  The other job industry growing right now is technology.  Technology requires infrastructure which, sometimes, does not exist in small towns or it is not up to the requirements of the technology yet.  The only way to improve that infrastructure though would be through an increase in funding which would only happen if, instead of shrinking and aging, the population of small towns was growing and younger.

We come back to, how does one stop this cycle?  It seems that the most effective way would be for leadership to recognize its own failures – something that only happens through competition.  Not to mention, recognizing the problems, which is another major issue for most of the small towns I have seen; they simply cannot recognize that there is a fixable problem that could benefit the town often because, no one wants to change at this point and everyone is afraid of dynamism.  People want the same things that have worked for their entire lives to apply in the exact same way to everyone else and then magically everything will be dandy.  Quite an interesting world those people live in so, next time you’re listening to a small-town friend of yours complain maybe just ask them, what have they done to help their small town besides simply existing in it?

The Village Idiot

“It takes a village to raise an idiot.” I feel like I grew up hearing such a phrase.  I did some research (see: Google searched) the phrase and came across a book by Hillary Clinton and an attribution that the phrase was “It takes a village to raise a child,” not to raise an idiot.

I think we need to revisit these idioms for our own sake.  These generally tend to point towards a sentiment that a whole community is needed to help bring up good members of that community, it is not a single entity that does that work.  Yet, we continually focus on “education” in the sense of schools and universities as the inherent problem with everything.  It’s our education system’s fault that our world is the way it is, it’s our government’s fault the world is the way it is, it’s our education system that is creating inherent laziness in all of the young people in the world (I’ve grown up hearing complaints about the ‘younger generation’ my entire life), our education system is creating the school-to-prison pipeline, it’s our education system that keeps bad teachers in their jobs via unions, contracts, tenure, administration (pick your poison there).  Going off of all these complaints, it would seem that actually it is our education system’s job to raise children for the community and not anyone else’s, except maybe the parents.  Who, coincidentally, have been raised in a similar situation. Yet, people wonder why the bad parts keep continuing.  It seems that, though we’ve been tweaking the education system for a while, we have yet to see solid returns.  Maybe it is time for the village to re-examine itself instead of simply blaming the school within it.

To be clear, this is mostly pointed towards all those people who complain of “the younger generation.” The younger generation had to pick it up from somewhere and you cannot blame the unborn.  I’d like to say it is time for the village to think about what it has done in raising the child.

Sure you’ve put the child into an education system which does seem to have it’s own problems but, what happens to said child from 3:00 p.m. until 8:00 a.m. when they return to the school during the week?  What about from 3:00 p.m. Friday until the following Monday or, that last day of school until the next school year? Say just a week day, that is 17 hours sure, ideally 8 or 9 of those will be sleeping but that still leaves 8 or 9 hours a day plus weekends where the child is not in school.  Sure, there may be after school programs, they may go until about 7 at night during the week that is still 12 or 13 hours in an unknown environment (and assuming any sort of after school program, which is a pretty big assumption I think).  Also, who has ever heard of a well-funded after-school program that is reasonably affordable to all members of a community?

But, what about sports, those are after school and have potential to be affordable.  Great, emphasize sports have every kid doing that, that will help with health right because everyone can be skilled at or at least play {insert favorite intense sport (football, basketball, track, volleyball, etc.)}.  Then again many kids may not like sports or the specific ones offered so, one way to keep them engaged and interested would be to give them awards for participation, another seemingly universally despised idea.  This then on top of families tending to focus on sporting events such as the SuperBowl, World Series, March Madness or whichever would seem to send the message that the most respected and honored individual(s) in society are the sports players.  Then one wonders why children are not focused on education and all dream of hitting the professional leagues but outside of that seem “lazy” or lacking initiative.  Or, for those who do not make it, they wonder why they will sit and watch sports all day on TV, keep updated on it via smart phones and generally not seem too heavily interested in much else, specifically, not interested in engaging in the community.

Where does one learn this emphasis?  Well, when school funding seems to put money first to sports equipment, teams etc. this would seem to show children that playing sports is more important than the teachers and an education.  Then, why do these schools seem to put this money first into the sports program?  Since that is the only thing it seems that parents care about or that people will donate to.  This would also point towards the higher importance of sports over an education and actual work to children too.

On top of this, the other thing pushed constantly is “leadership” in all its beautiful forms.  Leadership courses, leadership camps, university applications always looking for times the kid showed “leadership” any other extra-curricular claiming that the students involved get to show “leadership.” Seemingly this would show the student that they are all leaders and as such rules do not necessarily apply because they set them as leaders and as leaders they all get the be all-stars in the sports and should all get leadership positions in jobs.  Where does this emphasis come from? It would seem employers and those who help fund these “leadership” courses and then sign their children up in them.  Yet, it seems to surprise everyone who helped create such an environment that their children cannot play on a team well and do not want to work in a non-management position if they are not in the team.

Wait, no, it is all the media’s fault that our kids are the way they are.  Those hours not at school they are staring at a screen with sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll, etc. etc. etc. It is only those kids who are not in sports, not in the leader camps that are causing the problems because they are plopped down in front of the TV/computer/screened-device and just get to watch it or play their violent video games.  Who is it that bought the video games?  Who is it that keeps watching TV and watching the shows that are questionable and keep viewership high for all those “problem-causing” programs?  Which person is it that actually pays those bills?  I feel fairly sure that it is not the child.  Plus, for those parents who cannot get a job that goes from 8-3 and cannot afford the sports or camps, I do not think one can remain mad at them that they end up having to leave their child unattended or only lightly attended while they keep trying to make ends meet.

It seems to me, that there is a point where the village must re-examine the messages it is sending to it’s newest and youngest members.  Perhaps that time has come, instead of blaming schools, media and simply complaining about the “younger generation.” The “older generation(s)” need to pick up some of their responsibilities as members of the community (village) and start participating in younger people’s lives and trying to provide an example of a good, ideal member of the village.  Help fund after-school programs that are not simply sports, turn off the TV maybe, simply do some volunteer work with children in non-sports related things.  What kind of world would we have if entire villages actually actively participated in trying to create a friendly environment for all children to learn, feel safe and grow up to be responsible citizens instead of leaving it to someone else?

It seems that maybe it is time for the “older” generation to take responsibility for its own role in raising the “younger” generation and for the “younger” to start trying to grow up outside of the world that had been made for them.

Can Democracy Work With Borders?

I don’t think so. I think that a democracy as envisioned in the Enlightenment cannot actually function with set borders.  In other words, in order to have a proper democracy as places like the U.S. like to pretend we have, we cannot have strong borders like we do currently.  This is because borders entail exclusion and the ideal of democracies like the U.S. is that no one is excluded and borders make it possible for people to be born into the country, which, if democracies are to actually work off of “social contract” theories that they tend to lean on now, every individual has to come to sign onto the contract on their own.

The first part is relatively simple, a border defines an area that is yours and an area that is mine.  That is the point of borders, if you do not agree try to create a border that does to rely on this fundamental separation.  Borders are exclusion.  Democracies in our world constantly want to promote “multi-culturalism,” “openness,” “diversity,” and all those other pretty sounding words that get thrown around a lot.  Barring the internal issues that exist in these countries (that’s a can of worms that I will not open, so just stay in International Relations please), borders fundamentally deny these pretty words that like to get thrown around in democracies.  Basically, having a border, means that there is a part of the Earth that is “mine” (the citizen’s) and part that is “yours” (the non-citizen of any sort).  Operating off of that assumption means that a person has to work to become a citizen, (citizenship tests) which causes problems since the basic assumption made when say, the U.S. Constitution was written, was that of social contract theory.  This theory is essentially that the individual signs onto the contract of a government, which is just fine and dandy, if the person can read the contract and understand it, go ahead and sign on all you want, requiring a person to take a test of random facts of the history of the country is not really useful in this way.

As a history note, us Euro-Americans are quite good at letting people sign contracts when they do not necessarily understand the contract and what it entails.  Why do we suddenly care about a person understanding the contract when they want to be a citizen? Anyway, just a reminder, the U.S. is far from perfect like some people seem to want to say.

The discussion above has gotten dangerously close to my second point so I will just go ahead into it here.  So we have this social contract theory and with well and strongly defined and defended borders makes this contract inherently exclusionary which is exactly against the ideals that people like to claim in the current world.  The next problem is that this sense of there being borders means that a person can be born into a contract, which is not necessarily a bad idea in theory I guess, but this being born into a situation leads to two problems.

1) laziness, being born into something means you probably do not feel the same impetus to work for it or care.  This does not apply to all people in all situations, it does seem that it applies for voting though, since an individual is just born into a democracy they do not really feel the need to participate to have citizenship in a democracy which weakens a democracy by their lack of participation.  So, if everyone, in order to actually gain citizenship had to participate (i.e. vote) those that actually want to be members (i.e. sign the contract and join-in) would go ahead and vote and choose to become a part of that society.

2) it allows a sense of “us” and “them” to form.  Being born in a certain place and gaining citizenship automatically allows one to have a sense of that area being theirs and that people who move in are outsiders and frankly, in North America, that is entirely false.  Essentially, when being born in a place equates to citizenship nation-states are created which have all sorts of problems of exclusionary practices.

This is admittedly, poorly argued at this point, but my point is that a democracy cannot function with borders because borders allow the creation of nation-states which means exclusionary practices and lax-ness on the part of the citizens that are born into the nation-state.  So, in order to get a democracy that truly works, the concept of a border has to be taken apart.  Luckily, these are just musings that I never have to worry about coming to fruition!

A Fundamental Logical Error

The law of non-contradiction: X cannot have the adjective q and not-q at the same time. Within logical systems this of course works and is fundamental for a lot of ideas, theories, etc. But, it has expanded too far; it expanded into the human realm with the assumption that an individual cannot be both an individual and not an individual.

The law of non-contradiction made it so that one cannot say that a person is both an individual and a part of a group.  They cannot be both the private person and the public person; only one or the other is allowed at one time.  For some reason I am not sure of yet, the Enlightenment chose the individual, private person as the main focus of reason/logic. This is the point that I think one must put on the breaks.

Only through being aware of one’s connectedness can one really accomplish anything.  In other words, humans are a social animal, I am personally incredibly okay being alone for periods of time, but I know that being alone all of the time is both boring and bad for me.  A lot of great thinkers have struck on this idea: Aristotle being a big early one, there is Alexis De Tocqueville in Democracy in America, he calls this idea “self-interest rightly understood” (or something along those lines), Feminists with the ethics of care have hit it, Jesus with “love thy neighbor” (if you’re feeling religious), for the underdogs we have Marx who talks about this idea, Nietzsche considers humans as herd-animals, wanting to get more scientific our cousins the primates, apes etc. tend to be social, not to mention our friends: dogs.

Dogs brings up an interesting subject with cats and dogs being usually two of the most popular pets: cats are solitary and dogs are more social.  Could this be an image of this unusual spot humans find themselves in?  We somehow go back and forth between the two extremes of being solitary and social.  The problem with the law of non-contradiction is that it does not allow one to be both or work on being both at the same time.

It also seems that no one wants to attempt to deal with both of these natures at the same time.  I think it could be a solution to the theological problem of evil, I also definitely think being aware of this back-and-forth allows for a much more fluid and useful ethics.  It also allows for massive critiques of a lot of Western society: education and economics specifically.  I intend to go into these later.

So consider, which is “more” human?  The individual in the “state of nature” as our society is founded upon or the individual in a family/society as the ethics of care and virtue respectively are roughly founded on?

Thoughts On Honor

Honor, not the stupid useless honors courses, classes, frats, sororities and other academic groups.  There is no honor in academia.  In fact it often seems that society could get rid of academia and still do just fine, that’s another discussion though.

True honor needs to come back to society.  This feeling of honor was one of the many good things to disappear from society in this “post-modern” world and it needs to be brought back.  Not necessarily nationalistic, just personal honor and groups that support that honor.

Everyone needs to feel that they are bound to an honor code of some sort.  This by itself would lead to a lot of things getting sorted out in the U.S. we all felt honor-bound to either do or avoid certain actions and truly felt pride in having this honor we would end up doing or avoiding those actions.  It just seems to me that a true honor society that you have to work at to join and stay in is needed for everyone.