I am at a loss

It's my intent to get back to blogging on a regular basis. I've even thought about tossing in a few podcasts every now and then. One of my goals with the podcast was to be positive. I can't say the same for my blog. You have to show darkness to see light.
 
I really feel lost. At a loss. Void of ideas or understanding. I really have no idea how to proceed, or if it's even worth the effort. My podcast used to focus on trying to be positive, or at least not negative. I just can't feel that way now.
 
I am talking about bridging the divide between people in America. Finding some common ground. Finding a way we can all settle down and start moving forward again. There have certainly been hotly debated elections in the past. Issues which divided many people and left feeling upset and betrayed if their side didn't win.
 
But this feels different now. I know some will say the internet amplifies fringe voices and they aren't a majority, but I don't know if I believe that. I'm getting the impression that the majority of Trump voters believe there is a liberal pedophile conspiracy. That anyone not rooted in old testament Christian beliefs are evil. That all brown and black people who don't act as white as possible are less than human. That socialism is equal to communism. That holding progressive ideals like treating people equal under the law, paying women and minorities the same as white men is necessary, that holding corporations accountable for their behavior makes you a weak libtard. That there's nothing wrong with the planet, no nothing at all. That having your leaders act like childish bullies is a sign of strength, and that just simple kindness is a sign of weakness. That making sure someone else has the same rights you do somehow diminished your rights. That overtly waving your hate in everyone's face is the most patriotic thing you can do.
 
Is this just the fringe? I don't think so. I really don’t. And I don't know if I think it's even possible to bridge this gap. As Kayla Chadwick wrote 3 years ago:
"I Don’t Know How To Explain To You That You Should Care About Other People
Our disagreement is not merely political, but a fundamental divide on what it means to live in a society." (
https://www.huffpost.com/entry/i-dont-know-how-to-explain-to-you-that-you-should_b_59519811e4b0f078efd98440)
 
Facts don't matter anymore. Objective truth is dead. We're not disagreeing about the interpretation of one thing, we are not even speaking the same language anymore. I wonder if we are even the same species.
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Income Shaming

I debated whether this should be a PanFuture article or a personal blog, but I think it's both. Herein I get my cranky old man on, and also ruminate about the state of our society and future of civilization. There will also be swearing.
 
I have a special hatred for those articles that you see saying things like "Do these 3 things and retire before age 40" or "These are the simple wealth tricks no one does". They make me want to scream in someone's face. You've seen them, or any of a dozen variations on that theme. Sometimes they are aimed at younger people, sometimes at those more in middle age. But as far as I can tell, they all have one thing in common.
 
It usually comes early in the article, maybe a paragraph or two after the introduction. Whether it's from the person writing about what they did, or just a generic example, there's a mention of how much money you make. Often delivered as an offhand comment, no big deal. Like "hey, by the way, now that you earn a shit ton of money you could do this and get even more. It's easy and everyone can do it". It's an apparent complete and utter disconnect from how most people actually live
 
(For reference going forward, the median individual income in 2019 is $40,100, the average is about $58,400. Household incomes are higher, the median being about $63,000.
https://dqydj.com/average-median-top-individual-income-percentiles/)
 
And here is where the face-palming problem with all these articles lies. From a recent headline: "
6 Things to Do With Your Money Once Your Salary Reaches $70,000", which is mostly just to sell you shit you probably don't need. Or from another recent article titled "I saved $300,000 by 26—and doing these 5 unusual things helped me save like crazy". Two things immediately stand out from this author: "I also worked hard to earn scholarships and chose to go to an in-state school for financial reasons. But that, in addition to the job I took on as a research assistant, didn’t make school that much cheaper. To cover the $21,000 per year tuition, I did have some help from my parents and was able to graduate debt-free, which I consider an enormous privilege." She worked hard, good for her. So did I. She graduated debt free? Yeah, not me. And then this gem: "After college, I landed an internship at a biotech company that paid $32 an hour. Then, I moved on to a junior software engineering role that offered a $65,000 salary, along with a $10,000 signing bonus." She further managed to get by on only $20k per year and saved the rest.
 
YOU GOT AN INTERNSHIP THAT PAID $32/HR AND A STARTING JOB AT $65K! Normally I don't shout in caps, but it's shit like this that just makes me want to scream out loud and dismiss the rest of the article out of hand. Sure, she lives in Portland and that's pretty pricey, but holy shitballs. I'm 43 and I'll be lucky to crack $38k. I might be able to get by on $20k a year, but it's not like I have a choice. Save $300k? Ain't happening for a schmuck like me. Every last one of these articles never understands that most people don't get that lucky, and they don't understand how much easier the game is when you get a head start.
 
The more I thought about these articles the more it occurred to me we have a problem with income shaming. On the surface maybe there is good advice here, or maybe sometimes its just a scam to sell you that one weird trick. But more and more it reads like shaming. In the same way, especially here in America, we're told all the time how we're not thin enough, not ripped enough, not pretty enough. All these messages are often delivered in a way that says "if you're not this way, you have no value as a human being". We're often told we're not rich enough if we don't own the right things. And there's interesting wordplay in many of these articles. They always refer to wealth, not being rich. There's something different between those two. Like being rich makes you an asshole, but having wealth is all soft and fuzzy.
 
Of course the awful catch-22 of the whole thing is that the more money you have, the easier it is to gain more (or conjure out of thin air in the stock market). If you have little or none, it's nearly impossible to gain. This just makes the income inequality problem worse. In truth, most of us die where we were born. America has a Caste system, it's just not so obvious to most.
 
Most people don't have that kind of luck. Most people don't start ahead of the game. It's time to stop judging our value based on what we own or the size of our portfolios. Wall Street is not Main Street, and I am not just a credit score. What I do in my chosen jobs educated children, entertains people during a night out, preserves memories, and facilitates communication, among other things. Is all of that only worthwhile if it puts a lot of money in my pocket? I don't think so, but that's not how American capitalism is set up. It's time to separate value from money, self-worth from wealth, and vocation from compensation.
 
(As a related aside, any article that talks about 'side hustles' can fuck right off. I've been partly or fully self employed my entire adult life. It's all side hustle for a freelancer.)
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Something Nice

If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all. So simple, and though it may sound outdated and old fashioned, it would solve a lot of problems.

We are so far beyond simple disagreements. Far beyond SIWOTI (Someone Is Wrong On The Internet!). It seems most of the online conversation is just everyone telling you all you do is wrong. You're having fun wrong. You're rooting for the wrong team. You're playing that game wrong. Your shoes are the wrong color. You don't look like I think you should. You're doing something I don't like to do, therefore you suck. You like a thing I hate therefore you don't have a right toe exist. Enough. If you aren't actually being harmed, then shut up and move on.

What benefit do you gain from going out of your way to make yourself angry? So angry that you can't stand to be silent, and rather than making some coherent counterpoint all you can to is rage? Maybe it's a small number of people doing it, but it feels like there are as many people trolling all over as there are people "finding their tribe".

Honestly, if I have a magic wand I would probably erase social media. I might even kill the whole internet. I'm not sure the good outweighs the bad. I'm getting older. I'm an introvert. Social media isn't a good place for me. Am I just doing the same thing here? I sure don't have anything nice to say about social media.
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Air and Education

I heard a discussion on the radio today about the upcoming changes to the Supreme Court, as it related to education issues. I missed some of the conversation so I don’t know if there was a specific issue in question. But the gist of the issue was whether education and literacy are a right or a privilege for all American children, regardless of their means.
I think it is neither a right or a privilege. Literacy is a necessity. Like air, food, and water are essential for a living individual, so are literacy and education for for a living society. Without these basic essentials, civilization withers back to, at best, an agrarian existence, people spending all day in the fields, hoping that disaster stays far enough away to let them live another day. Just as a minimal amount of air, food, and water can sustain a living thing, a minimal education would allow a group of people to muddle along and continue as they are into the future.
But, given enough food to have all the best nutrition, enough water to use extra for sanitation, a safe place to sleep at night, an individual, relieved of the stress of mere survival, can thrive and grow, and pass along that benefit to other individuals. A healthy mother has healthy children.
Just the same, a society, given a good education, full literacy, and an ability to reason and think critically, think beyond immediate needs of survival, can grow. A healthy mind has a healthy culture. Given an opportunity to cultivate new ideas, ideas that stretch far beyond merely moving from cradle to grave while birthing offspring in the middle. Maybe some people would rather live merely as small village farmers or nomadic gatherers, as most people once did, but we have come so much farther. And we have much farther to go. I believe the only way out is through, and the key to the door is education.


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Words of peace from The Dude

This was an interesting read: Jeff Bridges searches for peace in Trump's America, come 'Hell or High Water'

170126080847-jeff-bridges-780x439

Give it a look, Mr. Bridges makes interesting points and a compelling case. I think it's essential for our progress and survival to heed the call for level-headedness. As I occasionally give in to reading comments on posts or what people who share news items say about what they share, I am struck by the raw and violent hate I see coming from all sides of an argument. Every disagreement seems to immediately escalate into all out war. If that can't be stopped, we may as well take up arms now and get our next civil war over with.

I do have one point of disagreement with Bridges. From his closing: "We don't know what's right and wrong, you know, completely, it's our opinion." In matters of personal judgment I agree, but where science and scientific consensus can more completely inform our judgments, I think there is much less room for opinion. And that perhaps is one area that is now causing so much of the hate. I think many people are not comfortable being confronted with the idea that science can invalidate their opinions. As a theme this year, the need to communicate scientific consensus better than we do is ongoing. I'm still not sure what the answer is, but someone once told me sometimes all you can do is live as a good example, and don't sink into the mud with the arguing and hate. I think The Dude would abide.
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Laws Change, But What About People?

We can change laws. We can grow as humans and at certain tipping points we decide that what has been is no longer right, and to properly instigate widespread change, we enact laws. Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves over 150 years ago. Almost 100 years ago women won the right to vote. Only recently we have legalized the rights of gay people to get married. But in this election year it is clear that while laws change, people don't always change with them.

Growing up I thought my generation would be more open than the previous one, but there is so much raw, gut-level hate flying about in our public forums this year I begin to doubt my feelings. Are less people racist, and the ones who still are, are just a lot louder than they've ever been? Or is the situation worse than it was before Obama took office? They call him muslim, foreigner, socialist, communist, dictator, liar, fascist, even anti-christ… all because they cannot openly call him nigger. His election did not end the discussion about racism, it opened the final book on the subject we were afraid to open, and 50 years after Dr. King marched on Selma, there is still a long way to go.

In 1995 Walmart pulled t-shirts from its stores that said "Someday a woman will be president" for fear of offending. A whopping ONE complaint was actually received. The store claimed the short was counter to it's family values. Mother, wife, caretaker, live giver, lover, it's all good as long as she stays in the kitchen.

It saddens me to think that 100 years from now, gay people will still be attacked for holding hands in public. I don't know what the answer is. At one time I thought hate would just die out when it was no longer codified by law, but now I think I'm wrong. For civilization to thrive and survive, we have to be better today than we were yesterday.
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