Friday, September 23, 2011
HSW calls this the circle of everything
Upon investigation, the term middle class is a real tough definition. We tend to want to define it in terms of income. That is not complete because a $30 -$50 grand income supports very large variables in standards of living, depending on where you are locating that income. Manhattan and $50 grand income is nothing. In Podunk city a $50 grand income is indeed upper middle class. I think that middle class should be defined as the amount of income left over after a very basic cost of living, and that does not include a 3000 sq ft house in the burbs with a BMW in the driveway. It seems that when distributed across the US, middle class is commonly accepted as incomes anywhere from $50 grand a year to $100 grand a year.
I did a bit of poking around and the difference in definitions of middle class is spectacular. Industrial countries all define it different. But it appears to me that it is mostly dependent on the amount of stuff you can buy over and above basic median living costs of the area you are living in.
So how does middle class life style show up in job demographics? After perusing government stats and several papers on the subject, I have to conclude that for the most part, middle class jobs consist of what we call white collar jobs, that is, jobs that make nothing and mostly consist of paper and computer work and supervisory positions. Parts of the health care areas that are middle class and several other areas are exceptions to that.
It appears that the most meaningful demographics on middleclass indicate that it comprises about 30%-50% of the working part of society.
Now what got me started on this is that for the last several years’ economic commentaries from a variety of authors are bemoaning the decrease in the amount of middle class households. Other than the idea that middle class incomes are the mainstay of government taxes and support of the consumer society, they haven’t much else to say on the subject. Oh the poor middle class, they are disappearing and it’s all the fault of government taxation and confiscation of wealth that class had accumulated. Bull shit!
There have been several periods in this country when the middle class had heavily invested in stocks and commodities through various means and that was where a lot of their wealth was centered. Direct buying into stocks and things like 401K investments. In what appears to me as a valid perspective on that; it was a gamblers position. So when we had the big financial dump in 2008 these people got hurt, they lost all or a large percentage of their wealth holdings. Now do we have sympathy with the folks that go into a casino and lose a bundle? Of course not. We know the casino is loaded against the gambler. Well, investing in the financial services and stocks and municipal bonds and all the other forms of finding a means of making money with no output of effort is a gamble. If the financial situation turns sour, as it has, you lose. All of this investment effort was directed to increasing ones money holding with free money and making no productive effort in doing so, in other words, trying to get something for nothing over and above your original payout.
Same thing applies to other investments. Housing and land are a very good example. Remember during the early 2000’s that the common concept on land and housing is that they would never go down in value, that is, what they could be exchanged for in dollars. Well, the middle class bought hook line and sinker into that and many got burned with the housing crash. All of a sudden, their million dollar home cannot be sold for anywhere near their purchase price. And, in conjunction with that, many had refinanced multiple times so that they owe much more than the property can be sold for. Under water home ownership indeed! I feel their pain!
My lack of sympathy extends to more than the financial aspect too. What economic class bought into the consumer society? It sure wasn’t the poor folks that barely got by, at least originally. I think it is apparent where that has gotten us; Huge degradation of the environment, huge usage of non-renewable resources, and the throw away society. As a class of consumers I reckon that is something to hold up with pride, right?
The middle class has always jumped on the wagon carrying the value system that “I got mine and if you ain’t got yours, your either lazy or god doesn’t approve of you at all” That last part was in very common usage from about the end of the civil war to the last great depression, encouraged by the Christian value systems of the time. Although I have had that attitude expressed to me countless times over the years and a lot of the new age semi religion advocate it in a variety of forms. Did that attitude encourage the “greed is good” value system? I would posit yes it did and then along came Ayn Rand and Bernays, and Karl Rove and Leo Strauss that reinforced it at the government level. You know, “the American way of life is non-negotiable” stuff out there.
During the heydays of the American industrial revolution the blue collar workers could actually have some hope of reaching the middle class position. Many did. WWII helped a lot on that also. The late 40’s and the 50’s were the period of the largest percentage of middle class folks in our society. It’s been down hill since the 60’s for a variety of reasons. Since 1944, inflation has devalued the dollar by over 90% and wages began a very noticeable stagnation since the 60’s, that is, blue collar workers pay didn’t even keep pace with inflation. The incomes of certain types of jobs did increase enormously, from the middle class jobs up to the elites income in the form of investments and the complete financialization of the economy, to where today; those with the top positions have increased their share of the countries incomes and wealth way beyond whatever justification you might offer. Multiple million dollar bonuses are absurd, especially when they are causing so much grief down the ladder of economic class.
I would expect to get some disagreements on this kind of analysis, but for me, the data speaks for itself. I have no sympathy for the downgrade of the middle class. They brought it all upon themselves as far as I can see and with rare exception, their value systems suck.
That said, I return to a brief statement about the last post on SF and Greer.
Several people noted that Greer and some other writers have, in a nutshell, a real ego problem. It shows up in their comments concerning disagreement of perceptions or reasoning and in some cases, of data. I can understand the impulse to defend ones position on some subject; hell I do it too. This subject of defense of ones most cherished beliefs I have covered before. When a person’s beliefs are based on ideology rather than a realistic assessment of what is transpiring around them, that person then becomes immersed in a defensive position, and is a trap easy to fall into. My father years ago had what I considered a piece of wisdom for me; every thoughtful person should take out their most cherished beliefs and examine them very periodically for how they work, consequences and how they match up with the reality around them. If they no longer work, or have undesirably consequences or not match up with the reality around them, then change those beliefs. Unfortunately, this usually involves some mental energy and usually some emotional pain, both of which are generally avoided by most people. You first have to admit that your stance is/was wrong. Not an easy thing for most to do, a contradiction of the ego. I am using “belief” here in a broad sense; A commitment to an idea or pattern of ideas that may or may not have substantial data to support it. An example. A writer that Freeacre and I have followed for years maintains that all questioning and conspiracy theories concerning 9-11 are bullshit, there is ample evidence that none of those theories have weight. I along with some others have suggested to him that he needs to dig a bit deeper into the data, which he adamantly refuses to do and has shut down all discussion on the subject. His sole defense that he has presented to me is an article in Popular Mechanics put out in Feb of 2005. (http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/military/news/1227842)
It’s as if Popular Mechanic has the last word on the subject. When I take that article and compare it to a lot of the other 9-11 data dug up by supposedly reliable researchers, the PM article becomes a joke, in my opinion of course. Read it if you haven’t before. It is easy to tear it apart using other data from other “experts”. Now, this writer is seemingly unable to delve deeper into this controversy. What are the consequences of a general population doing the same? Does this position actually work with the additional data being presented? Or, is my stance (beliefs) on the corruption of high elites in our government and the reliability of the “science experts” that presented this article in PM not realistic and am I taking a stance that has no basis in reality?
In reality, the best an individual can do is to examine as much of the data available on any subject and come to some kind of conclusion (Belief) concerning it. That mine is very contradictory to the above writer’s conclusions proves nothing. It appears that this problem of “beliefs” on any subject is a black hole that cannot be resolved. If a person is conscientious about such stuff and keeps an open mind to new information that can be considered reliable, we can hope that we are at least somewhat in alignment with the reality of the situation. However, it appears to me that we can never be absolutely sure of that. I honestly try and keep in a mental space where I can change those “beliefs” with sufficient evidence to the contrary. LOL But we all know that 9-11 was an inside job.
As a side note, I find it very interesting that large amounts of the elites are assembling in and around Denver Colorado, where the huge underground city (documented) has been built. Does this have anything to do with space events that have been posited that promise to be detrimental to life on earth? I guess if that huge solar flare heading for earth actually happens and fries most everything on the surface, all we can really do is put up the lawn chairs and enjoy the light show as it comes at us.
This brings up my last comment for this post. One of the common assumptions is that the elites are people who, at its most basic level, are pretty much just like us. You know, the putting their pants on one leg at a time kind of thing. While their value systems we take issue with, they are not necessarily more intelligent than we are but, obviously more clever at making money and exercising power. I’m beginning to question that assumption for these reasons. Outside of the newly rich, the power families of this world are very closed, in some cases inbred and their children are raised having just about every advantage this world has to offer in education and health care. Would this lead to a dynasty in these families of overall superior intelligence and abilities? Notable exceptions do appear, like our last president, either that or he was immensely clever at disguising his superiority and appear as just another dumb Billy Bob. With smart breeding and culling of the less desirable traits, humans can do the same thing as we do with domesticated animals, breed for the desirable traits. Now there obviously is not data on this kind of speculation, but I do wonder about it. If it is true, us other mere mortals are so doomed. In which case I just can hope that when the elites emerge from their underground cities that there is enough of a wasteland left that they all commit suicide from depression. Sigh.
I can't believe these feathered dinosaurs. They actually threatened me with a moratorium on eggs if I didn't hurry up and get the grain out!
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Dehydrated cherry tomatoes. Finally getting some things from the Garden!
SCIENCE FICTION AND THE FUTURE
I know many of our readers follow The Archdruid postings. I do faithfully. A few of them I considered important enough to archive into storage. John Michael Greer (the archdruid) I have great respect for. Knowledgeable, well read, studious, pays attention to details and a good writer and I seldom have serious dispute with his postings.
However, I have to take exception to his Sept. 7 post titled “Invasion of the Space Bats” that is concerned mostly with science fiction writing.
I will fully admit that I have been a big fan of science fiction writing since the late 60’s. I had a rather huge collection of paperback novels a bunch of years ago, finally got tired of moving them and sold almost all of them, comprised of nearly 1500 books. I still have around almost the complete works of Heinlein and several others of my favorite authors.
In my opinion, Greer has a rather myopic view of SF writing. He stated; “it was basically a collection of wish-fulfillment fantasies for teenage boys. (And that, Mr. de Camp, is what the woman in the brass brassiere is doing on the cover of your book.) “. Bull shit in my opinion. In fact, Greer’s belittlement of SF smacks of Ayn Rand and her condemnation of everything but classical music. I sure would hate to see Greer go in the direction of Randisms, he’d lose me in a heartbeat.
My fascination with SF up until about 1980 was the alternate views concerning how humans could organize themselves into societies and how they would work. “The wish-fulfillment fantasies” dealing with technology was entirely of secondary concern for me. I was interested in the author’s conception of how societies could be organized differently, how motivations of individuals and groups could influence actions and what the consequences might be, and how future societal values might evolve. I have a rather long list of SF books that highlight that line of thinking. Greer’s myopic view that these novels were exclusively about technology and teenage fantasies is very poor reductionism and IMO misses the author’s points by wide margins.
It is true that many SF novels focused on the author’s concept of future technology and engaged in how that technology was used. These novels usually had poor character development, pretty thin plot lines and rather predictable outcomes. I read them for the purely entertainment value. But to make Greer’s mistake of lumping them all into “wish-fulfillment fantasies” is only showing a lack of extensive investigation on his part.
I mostly stopped indulging in SF reading around 1980 or so because I observed a couple of changes going on. I got tired or reading acclaimed novels that seemed to only be concerned with the number of words being printed and paid for and had nothing significant to say. I also lost interest in the change from speculation on social organization to what I call science fantasy. These works migrated into magic and the occult and completely unbelievable futures. Purely entertainment without significant content and probably would fit into Greer’s “wish fulfillment fantasies”.
I recently had an acquaintance lay on me 4 sacks of her SF books to read. I recently went through two of the sacks and am reading only one of the novels. The rest I won’t bother with because they are those science fantasy types that IMO have nothing significant to say about anything. The person that let me borrow these book is a retired teacher and a self proclaimed SF nut and offers literary critique on a broad scale. I’m not looking forward to returning the books unread since she recommended them so highly. But I refuse to waste my time on them. The one novel I am reading is concerned with nano-technology misuse and how it affected the people involved. The author seems to have made the attempt to really understand the technology as it is today and project it into the future applications, mostly military. So far, that novel hasn’t disappointed me. I shall see how it ends up.
In talking about SF we also need to include the movie part of it. Freeacre and I have recently seen a bunch of the most wretched god awful written and produced Sf movies ever. The plots were pretty good, but everything else presenting it was so poorly done as quite literally, were not worth watching. For some reason that I don’t fully understand, the SF movies for the most part do not have much significant to say, pure entertainment alone. There are exceptions IMO. The Matrix series I think have some significant statements as does the Terminator series. “The Road” which is a pretty dark movie does project some possible scenarios into the future, as does the movie “Children of Men”. I think that “The Postman” (which is a futuristic movie and SF) also has some significant statements about humans and how they can organize and live after a huge catastrophe.
Which leads me to another subject associated with SF that I have touched on before. There is much written today and in the past concerning the past, present and future. The advice from many authors, religions and philosophy views is to live in the present. Upon examination of some of these “live in the present” positions, I have come to the conclusion that it is a fantasy game in the brain. There is no such thing as “the present” and humans that try and live there are kidding themselves. What is possible is to limit to some extent the amount lived in the past or projections into the future.
Let’s start with some definitions. The future is what might be, but is not manifested at this time and space. The past is what is remembered and has already taken place. The present is what is “now”. That is where the rub is. What is the time interval for “now”? The minute you identify “now”, it is in the past. The past and the future have no time limitations. I am going to assert that humans cannot live in that short a time span of brain activity. What are we going to talk about, milliseconds, Pico-seconds? “Now” in reality simply does not exist in any human conceptualization that has meaning. What we mostly refer to as “now” is a short time span in the past.
It is true that humans may indulge in what is called “impulse behavior” that does not have significant reflection on past memories, but, I would assert that operating primarily on impulse behavior has more negative consequences on a person than might be acknowledged. Even the “fight or flight” impulses are based on past memories.
One of the characteristics of the human brain is that it has selective memory and is most of the time very inaccurate for a variety of reason. Since the memory of the past events can never be absolutely verified we have to accept our interpretation and “memory” of events that influence our actions in the future. Living in the “now” implies that memory of the past and projections into the future can be discounted and that, my readers, is flat out impossible. It is not the way the human brain works. Even other animals operate by remembering the past, which is the basis for actions in the future. A well-trained dog remembers past commands and acts accordingly. So do all of us. .
The real question for me anyway, is how accurate are the memories and their relationship to reality. From experience, I know damned well that I have memories that are doctored, maybe even pure fantasy. How many times have friends said to you that your memory of some incident is not how it was, or that they saw it very different? Or how many times has a friend related and incident you were involved in sometime in the past and you don’t recognize it because you remember it different?
On a very rudimentary level, our very survival depends on memory of the past. That memory and the resulting consequences of some event is what keeps us alive and able to project consequences into the future. When our memory is very inaccurate most of the time and not in conjunction with reality, we probably will not survive. In my view, that is the purpose of history, inaccurate as it is, to keep us focused on what has gone on before and its implications for the future. If the history that we keep locked up in our minds is way off base in relation to reality, we will make some really bad decisions concerning future actions, much to our detriment.
I conclude that all the new age stuff about living in the “present” in the “now” is so much nonsense. It can’t be done and only diverts ones attention from what is important to human living and survival.
At this point I want to thank all of you that have offered opinions concerning this blog and its continuance. That the comments were so predominately encouraging and supportive took me a bit by surprise. It truly felt to me that the blog was becoming stale without much new to talk about. We are not about to disconnect from this blog in the immediate future, and maybe we just need a few people to make contributions with some fresh insights we haven’t thought of. Belgium says he has some in the works. Let’s see how this progresses.
Thanks again to all of you.
Thursday, September 8, 2011
The build up in the fire pit during HSW visit in preparation to fire 3 of his clay heads. Sort of looks like a salad doesn't it? There were at least 10 different items in that fire for effect on the clay.
THERMOPYLAE ALL OVER AGAIN? from murph
If you aren’t familiar with the battle of Thermopylae, Wiki will give you some of the background. The legend is that 300 Spartans defended a pass to stop the passage of a huge amount of invaders intent on taking over Greece. It was referenced at the last part of the movie “The Last Samurai”. In actuality, there were back up armies to the 300 Spartans, but a turncoat got them all killed. In the end, the invading hoards were repelled.
I bring this up as a simile to current situations. There is a huge horde at the gates, threatening the PTB and wanting to abolish their rule. The Spartans (an extreme warlike group) composed of the PTB and their minions are defending the status quo. They are vastly outnumbered but have the machinery of war and suppression at their disposal. We have been talking for years now about who will win this confrontation. How many of the defenders were killed? To the very last man according to the story.
Our problem as citizens is to survive until the conclusion of the battles and then deal with the aftermath. The question in my mind, are there enough bodies to oppose the PTB? At this time, it appears not to be although that could change dramatically as our living situations deteriorate. There does seem to be considerable rebellion going on around the world. How much has been instigated by the PTB is open to question and just what the agendas are we, of course, are not privy to.
Freeacre and I have been exposed to huge amounts of contradictory information concerning Libya and the uprising there. According to a couple of sources, Libya was in actuality a very open populace democracy wherein the government used its oil revenue for the benefit of the population and Gaddafi had no power at all, only as an advisor. The country supposedly had the highest standard of living of any country in Africa. The contradiction is that Gaddafi was a tyrant dictator that had to be replaced. It has been fairly obvious to us that a lot of the photos and news items concerning the rebellion has been spun and doctored. Preparing us for another damned war? Is the US determined to control the whole of mid-eastern countries? Considering how much hate is directed toward the US in that area of the world, it is going to take some pretty hefty military presence to do that. Who in hell is going to finance that? China? Japan? Germany? Not likely. But we shall see.
One of the big contradictions I see is over the worlds oil supply. Circulating around is the concept that the US has oil reserves that far exceeds all the other reserves in the world put together. Well, if that is true, what are doing fighting over oil in the Arab worlds? Make sense to you? Somebody is lying to us on a grand scale.
On the home front.
It sure appears to us that heavy criticism of the US government is coming under some pretty draconian suppression. In many ways, I approve of that. Nothing like suppression to get the adrenalin boiling up and rebellion started. At the same time, a lot of people are going to take it in the ass. Not justice, not pretty and with no real justification at all outside of the top people’s lust for power. This has led us to be concerned with what is being said on the internet, principally, the criticisms of policy and behavior of the PTB and their minions. How much of a crackdown is coming at us? How many folks are going to be made example’s of what happens when you criticize?
While this blog has a, relatively speaking, small readership and comments, it has tended over the years to be quite critical of the goings on nationally and worldwide. Will any of us be made examples of? We have quite a few examples of popular sites being discontinued. What was the reason? Pressure from some power players? Threats? We don’t really know. Small blogs such as this one are primarily composed of people with few resources to fight that kind of pressure or defend against threats. But, we do know that often when an example is to be made, it is mostly directed at those folks with the least ability to fight back. The family organic farmers and food coops are a prime example of the big commercial agricultural business taking on those without the power to fight back. Observe whom the IRS goes after. Same thing is happening at the international level. The US certainly is not taking military action against a country that has the capability to mount an effective resistance. Although I have to admit that Afghanistan is doing pretty good with asymmetric warfare. We sure as hell are not pressing those countries with nuclear retaliation capabilities.
So, Freeacre and I are contemplating whether to continue this blog. We are as concerned for you the readers and those that comment as we are for ourselves. Is it time to stop and become a bit more anonymous? Have we said all that is to be said? Do we now need to turn our attention elsewhere?
We are interested in what others have to say on this subject. Let us know.
A Note from Freeacre –
Personally, I don’t want to end our association with the tribe. But, the blog site gets about two thousand hits a month from all over the country. Most of the people who read our site do not make comments. That’s been fine with me during the time when we were attempting to raise awareness of peak oil and other resources, provide alternatives to the corporate injunctions, learning to produce our own food, organizing the community, etc. But, now it seems to me as well, that we have written about preparing until we are practically blue in the face. We thought it would have all crashed and burned years earlier. Who knew they would come up with the wild assortment of mitigating factors that they have – trillions in “bail outs,” never-ending wars, creating a suffocating police state, and God knows what all? It looks as if they are going to string this crap out forever.
I’m about done with preparing. Now, I want to accomplish some things on my “bucket list” while it’s still possible. We may not even plant a garden next year. We may take a year off and travel a bit. I’d like to be more artistic. It seems that many of you have moved on as well.
The earth changes and possible asteroid, comet, or dwarf star approaches mostly either will or will not take place within the next couple of months. Frankly, I’d like to keep holding each others hand awhile longer at least. Somewhere down the line, I think we should close down the blog and the “regulars” continue our friendships through e-mail, phone calls, or visits.
The grid could go down at any time – whether through natural or man-made reasons. I guess that’s the last thing that we need to prepare for.