Posts Tagged ‘Culture’

Hating Business

June 23, 2016

 

Business hatred4

Portrait of male deli owner leaning on counter

Business Hatred1

Why all this hatred of normal life?

For Conservatives one of the World’s Great Cultural Wonders is, Why Do So Many People Profess to Hate Business and Normal Life?

Business creates wealth.  Business creates and adds value.  Businesses employee people and pay them money.  Business is voluntary both in terms of using labor and in dispensing products.  You don’t have to work where you don’t want.  And you don’t have to buy what you don’t want.  (Unless the government demands this.)  And on top of all of this, the entry requirements are fantastic.  You simply start doing it.  No credentials are necessary.

Moreover, business is the flow of life.  As Francesca Aran Murphy so succinctly states in her piece, “Is Liberalism a Heresy?”

“A mixture of rule of law and respect for personal freedom enabled market economies to emerge.  People readily took to the roles of buyer and sellers of goods, because buying and selling involves the kind of role-play in which human beings flourish…..  Buying and selling became a driving force and expressive feature of modern societies, because the clever play of concealment and exposure through language and gesture it entails fits our social, dramatic  natures like a glove.”

 On the other hand, government takes our money.  It is compulsory.  It demands obedience by force.  And in some matters, even what the government offers is compulsory e.g. “free” education.

The government enslaves citizens, sends them to wars, and requires onerous tasks e.g. filling out and filing tax forms.  The governments of this world are responsible for and uncountable number of wars and millions upon millions of deaths.  Government decides upon wrong-headed policies from which its citizens are allowed no escape.  To be frank, the list of governmental sins is too long for a modestly realized piece such as this.  And then there is the nature of control.

A citizen’s control over their government’s actions is beyond laughable.  We are allowed to vote several times a year (usually 2 or 3).  Our vote is only one of millions cast.  Our decisions are on perhaps 10 -30 key topics with the results being A,B,C,or D.  From these decisions hundreds of thousands of employees are directed and trillions of dollars allocated, and yards high stacks of laws and regulations enacted.  We really have no more than a general idea of what the laws surrounding anything we might do might be.  This is why the sight of the police creates the slight frisson of fear in even the most honest citizens.  You do not want the law turning its eye upon you.  God knows what it is you could be doing wrong.

Business Hatred3

A citizen’s control over a company, however, is quite direct.  We can decide individually – and as many times as we like – whether or not to buy a product.   If we buy the product and it doesn’t perform, we can decide to not buy the product again.  If the product does perform and we like it, we have sustained a beneficial enterprise.  And the benefits of the enterprise extend well beyond the business product itself.  The ebb and flow of customers adds to the community’s vitality.  A business establishment is a place to meet, a place to talk, a safe and clean place to rest a bit.  The traffic of honest citizens deters the criminal element.   People get things they need, and the employees make money.  A successful business anchors a neighborhood, both financially and socially.  A successful business even disciplines a neighborhood.  If you don’t behave, you are made to leave.  If you can’t frequent the business, it is hard to the join the neighborhood.  Business has a civilizing effect upon the daily life of citizens, which is a consideration obtained with few laws ennacted.  Business accomplishes very much with very little encroachment upon the citizen’s liberties.  All business demands are the day to day courtesies – which, in any event, are a balm to the spirit.

Business Hatred5      business hatred2

Why then, this animus towards business?

Ad5

Advertisements

April 7, 2016

Ducks

Our Illusory Fears and My Case for Optimism

 

Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine is a huge book of 2016 pages plus an index of 78 pages and some additional ‘plates’ of illustrative photos.  (Which you wouldn’t want placed by your evening meal.)  A joke has it that a medical student fell asleep while reading this thing in bed and broke her nose.  And it would be a nasty thing, heavy as some chunk of earthen conglomerate, to break your nose on, as it is chockfull of infections, afflictions and diseases … many too awful to describe.   On late evenings, studying this huge work myself, I often wondered how it was I stayed alive?  Every sort of organism both large and infinitesimal is out there bent on doing us in, or at least sucking our vital energies and/or gumming up the works – assuming that our own genes and inherent lunacy doesn’t sink us.

Often, I’ve imagined how fortunate it is that I’ve managed to travel the miles and do the plethora of tasks I do every day – meeting with the unforeseen, the unpredictable, dealing with the marginally employed and the intensely volatile – and stay alive.

I still marvel that I’ve been able to stay out of jail, as virtually nobody – even lawyers – fully or often partly understand the reams of city, county, state and federal laws and regulations we labor under.  In Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent by Harvard lawyer Harvey Silverglate – “The average professional in this country wakes up in the morning, goes to work, comes home, eats dinner, and then goes to sleep, unaware that he or she has likely committed several federal crimes that day.”  Imagine that.  Our over-reaching laws and regulations seem vast as an ocean and as hazardous nowadays as going to sea ever was.

It’s a wonder I’ve been able to maintain some standing in a society which doesn’t allow much margin for error.  Say the wrong thing, or even burp or laugh at the wrong time and you lose that sale, that career opportunity, that sexual opportunity, that social opportunity…  I remember an article in the Seattle Times some years ago which was advising single women on handling home repairs.  A general contractor advised that they could find a plentiful supply of cheap handyman labor, by utilizing those whose personalities had proved too volatile for steady employment.

I’ve wondered how the average person avoids bankruptcy.  Monthly bills and direct withdrawals attach themselves like leeches.  Insistent invitations to buy fill the media.  Credit card prospects flood the mail.  Contracts and guarantees are a minefield of fine print.  The wife and kids always maneuver for another purchase.  And when you go broke, as my brother advised me:  “You don’t just run out of money.  They gut you like a fish.”

I’ve wondered – in places beyond my grasp – how in the world the technology we depend upon doesn’t fail us?  Each day I fear the Y2K equivalent of cyber crime, or cyber terrorism, or a simple identity theft.  Or will some preteen hacker take control of my ‘smart’ car and run me into a tree?

As the years pass the devices we use pass beyond our ability to comprehend.  I no longer fiddle with the car.  My computer does things…  I can’t say what they are.  I can’t figure out the Apple TV buffering.  Even the remote baffles.  And the thermostat has become like Hal in 2001.  If you happen to stumble and brace your hand against it in the night on the way to pee, the Lord knows when your next heating cycle will occur.

I worry about how us average Joes will stay employed.   Statistically, we’re expected to retrain ourselves several times throughout our careers, while surviving to land that next job.  We’re expected to rope up through networking, maintaining contacts, and staying on top of our fields through continual re-schooling by controlling our mindset and maintaining a positive outlook.  What is going to happen to me when I get tired?!  (Author’s note: I’m tired.)

I’m puzzled how the average person raises ‘survives’ more than one child.  There is barely time to listen to all their demands!  They have activities, destinations.  They have medical, dental, and therapies.  They either want lots of your complete attention and right now – or they can’t hear you!  Their school work is a haystack of handouts, online links, and hop scotching through a textbook of printed and written assignments whose directions are far harder to understand than the assignment itself – and written as if for a fellow PhD in Educational Theory.  They don’t attend every school day, nor always for a full day, nor do they always begin or end consistently.  They need shots and permission forms and fees for anything detachable, plus lunch monies.  And lately a community activity has been added to the required electives, plus a dollop of “zero tolerance” up to and including felony time, for an ala carte of adolescent transgressions.  And, they’re up for anything their ‘in’ crowd peers might want to do, including jumping off a cliff, I would hazard.

How do we survive?

Well, in my optimism, I think of that weekend in my youth when my brother organized a trip down the Deschutes River in Western Oregon.   Being the youngest member of the entourage and in a straggler position, I got the small two person life raft with these cute little oars.  The river rushed past as I stood on the bank.  I had to use the outhouse twice before embarking.  But once I pushed off and gained river speed the travelling was quite pleasant.  There were emerging rocks and downed trees and whirlpools and rapids with tall standing waves.  There were lots of dangers to thwart by wiggling my two cute little oars.  And looking back, this looks a bit like the situation of our lives.

I did well enough until I drifted into a whirlpool and started sinking.  The raft filled.  I went down, down… until the river was just under my arms.  What a perspective.  Again, just about as our lives as I’ve described.   When, with a big whoosh! the inflatable sprung to the surface and further down the river we glided.

In retrospect we’re forced to say – in face of the evidence – that many of our fears and dangers are illusory.  Though it certainly doesn’t seem so.  But the evidence is – that we’re still here!

Which forms the wellspring of some real optimism.

And as long as we are alive, this evasion of all of these certain dangers keeps happening!  There is no doubt about any of this!  And surely this is the cause from some credible optimism.

Now I haven’t suffered the misfortunes of many, many people.  Disease, tragic death, terrible accidents, war, famine, poverty and strife have stayed their distance.  But even those for whom it hasn’t… as long as we are alive, it is hard not to make the case for optimism.  Our lifeboat is still working.

So let’s have a smile, people, and thank our Creator, or as the atheists would have it,  Mindless Happenstance.  After we’re dead, it might be easier to build that case for pessimism.

Or, we might just be dead.

Ad1

From the Editor’s Perch

August 16, 2014
Native Ad in The Atlantic

Native Ad in The Atlantic

“Newsvertising”

 Is Native Advertising a New Way of Gaining Balanced News?

A friend’s blog recently posted this humorous commentary by John Oliver on “Native Advertising”:  http://www.scotbastian.com/do-ya-think-blog/newsvertising-er-i-mean-native-advertising-in-the-news#comments

“Native Advertising” are pieces of advertising commentary placed with the body of a newspaper or magazine and graphically sculpted to resemble the normal stories surrounding it (with a small disclaimer).  

This piece made me wonder if perhaps a new way of gaining ‘balanced’ coverage isn’t evolving.  As I noted in my comment: “I think this tendency has a benefit especially in a climate of polarized media where the published news is slanted and selected so as to please their subscribers. How else could Chevron get its views across clearly in a publication such as the New York Times? It solves a multitude of problems at once: The NYTimes does not alienate it’s audience. Chevron gets its views made. The business model supports continuing news, as always.”

Native Advertising in the Slate

Native Advertising in the Slate

Groups with opposing views could pay to have these views published in their opponents’ news organs.  Is this a win, win with more balanced news for everyone?

Images from Google

From the Editor’s Perch…

July 31, 2014
Seattle and Environs

Seattle and Environs

In the Big Cities There’s Really Only One Game in Town, and It’s Out of Town

 

A criticism lobbed by the inhabitants of our large cities of our country’s rural areas and small towns is that they are ‘provincial’.  And ‘provincials’ are seen as uneducated and unsophisticated people who have the speech and narrow, limited attitudes of rustics and small town Babbitts.  This is seen as a bad thing.  And in some respects I’d suppose it is.

 

However, there is at least one respect in which small town life is refreshing.  I’ve lived in Seattle for many years, and now I live in rural Belpre Ohio, a small town across the river from Parkersburg, West Virginia.  Most people here are as they pretend to be.  Your waitress is a waitress.  Your bank teller is a bank teller.  The electrician, garbage collector, lock repairman, heating and air conditioning fellow, the insurance salesman, the nurse, and on and on are who they pretend to be.  And so far I’ve found them to be quite competent, solid and hard working.

 

I was talking over our policies with my insurance salesman who has his office a couple blocks away just the other day.  He’s a younger fellow, smart, good looking, and working out of a small cottage converted to business use which is on the main thoroughfare.  He had always lived in a small town and was wondering if he shouldn’t try living in a big city for a while, and asked me what I thought the differences were.  Off the top of my head I said, “Well, they’re probably more ambitious.”  But I was ruminating more on this after leaving his office, when it occurred to me, that a most interesting difference was that the people in large cities see themselves as acting on a world stage.  They see their concerns as world concerns.  They see themselves as arbitrating the path of civilization, the future of our planet.  Their concerns are big and important… usual crucial.  So they can get pretty hot about them.  In this small town I’ve moved to, the concerns are much more human-sized.  (Though they can still get hot about them.)

 

A problem I’d had in the big city was that probably all of the people I knew were not on a world stage.  They discussed things as if we were.  But actually the world stage for whatever issue we were discussing was usually New York or Washington D. C.  or some other world capital where the actual Mandarins of opinion worked and thrived.  My personal experience was not a credible currency for argument.  What was credible and powerful in conversation was information, opinion – and especially attitude – as disseminated by these Mandarins… all of the talking heads out there in the media.  So, though important conversations on the face of them seemed to be between the people you were speaking with, they were actually discussions over the digressions of various mandarins.  This is tedious once you begin to recognize the mandarins.  You’ve heard all the moves and countermoves.  It is also suffocatingly pedantic.  In this respect, the blogosphere is a recent help.   You send me your link.  I’ll send you my link.  We save each other the waste of a lot of hot air – the inaccuracies of interpretation.  And neither of us read it.

 

In the big city the waiter is not a waiter, (they’re actors, artists!), the salesman is not a salesman (he’s a promoter), the tech fellow is not a tech fellow (he’s an entrepreneur), your teacher is writing a book…  Not many Americans in big cities.  They are World Citizens.  In the big cities married people are not really married (in the traditional sense), nor are they really religious, nor are they really the sex they appear to be (either through clothing or desire)…

 

Everybody is a big potato in the big city!  No small potatoes there.  I used to complain to my wife that, “I wish many of my artist friends would just admit that we are small potatoes.  Maybe we will become big potatoes some day.  But if we could just admit that right now we are small potatoes – maybe we could have a satisfying conversation.”  But up and onwards the whole system goes in its ambitious, progressive frenzy.

 

In the big cities there is really only one game in town, and it’s out of town.  In the provinces there’s really only one game in town, and it’s right here.  There’s the big difference.

Belpre Ohio1

Photos by Google Images

 

From the Editor’s Perch…

October 11, 2013

scan0062

A Brief Review

 

History is written by the winners, as they say, but it’s not because there is not lots of material about losers in the public and private archives, says Scott Sandage.  “The voices of and experiences of men who failed (and of their wives and families) echo from private letters, diaries, business records, bankruptcy cases, suicide notes, political mail, credit agency reports, charity requests, and memoirs.”

As anybody with eyeballs is apt to see, failure is the much more likely result of business enterprise than success.  And if we are to celebrate the fruits of a Darwinian process, such as successful enterprise is – then we ought, as a culture, to explore ways to reap fertility from failed enterprise.  Not just economically, but culturally; making use of losers as a cultural resource, a fertile bed from which our next generation of achievers arise.  Just look around.  We paddle through a Sargasso Sea of failures every day.   History is stuffed with the biographies of high achievers whose upbringings came from families of failed patriarchs.   There is good fertile soil here.  But what is done to respect it?

It’s no surprise that our society produces much more failure than success, and much more quiet desperation than joy.  Competition naturally produces many more losers than winners.  And yet, Sandage would point out, we structure our social interchange as if success were the only virtuous possibility.  And in doing so, create a lot of suffering.  (And also, by the way, limit a lot of social potential.)  An interesting example he points out is contractual law.   The act of signing a contract “is a promise to be successful”.   Otherwise obligations could not be met.  Of course, this is preposterous.  Most enterprises fail.

And then, culturally, when we see failure, we look for a “reason in the man”, a phrase Sandage notes often passed around in the 19th century.  But if you examine the victims of the 19th century financial panics, which Sandage does, the most common plea of the pending bankrupt was that, he could pay his debts if only his customers would pay him!  Business naturally placed even the most shrewd and enterprising businessman within a web of contracts which turning together greatly contribute to either his success or failure.  This is as true today.

There is an awful lot more to be said about Sandage’s book, but I’ll close this short review with these two of his comments:  “Nineteenth-century Americans swapped liberty for ambition, adopting the striver’s ethic as the best of all possible freedoms.”  “Soon a man would be nothing more nor less than his occupation.”

But readers!  Hope springs eternal.

My next post reviews an article from The New Yorker about how a new entrepreneurial culture in San Francisco tends “to regard success in terms of autonomy”.  “This braiding of tech-business growth with life-style values and aesthetics – and from there, the world of art- creeps many people out.”

More to come.

From the Editor’s Perch

November 22, 2012

Follow the Money

(Our Adolescent Culture and How Discretionary Spending Determines It)

As I stood at the breakfast counter this morning – in between the lubbity-dub sounds of my inner contentment and love – it occurred to me that the majority of our discretionary spending was done by my cereal slurping son.  My wife and I bring in a good income.  But our expenditures are quite practical.  House payments, car payments, every day repairs, utilities, foodstuffs and medical bills consume most of our income.  That’s my wife and I.  Our son, on the other hand, has little income.  But the income he has is spent almost entirely on ‘new’ products.

My son hasn’t a lot of money to spend (though he does pretty well at leveraging mine).  But what money he does spend is spent almost entirely on new culture: music, movies, snacks, designer drinks,concerts, trending clothes and sports.  And while I spend much of my money buying time in order to produce the plays, writings, stories, poems, and pictures through which I hope to beautify our culture, …what I do isn’t wagging much dog.  My son, on the other hand, devotes almost all his money to purchasing what is new.  And his money seems to be wagging quite a bit of dog! and wallpapering our culture stem to stern.

The years have shown me that culture and politics tend to go wherever there is new money to be made.  So after realizing that my son does the cultural ‘voting’ for our family, I suffered a buffeting series of revelations.

You want to change the world?  Don’t go to school, study hard, work, and learn the difficult lessons of the life and all that – because all that stuff is in the public domain.  You want to change the culture?  You’ll be much more effective if you simply go buy something from WalMart.  It’s that ‘Golden Rule’:  ‘Those that have the gold, make the rules.’  My son’s viewpoint is winning, hands down.

Finally, I’ve connected the dots and realized that the reason our culture strikes me as terribly adolescent is because it is mostly financed by adolescents; the businesspeople who make their livings by catering to adolescents; and the cultural media who pander to the adolescents ideas of the ‘new’.  As opposed to the Ten Commandments, which God knows, are in the public domain and we’ve all heard a thousand times.  (Don’t even bring them up!  you want to sell anything.)

Anyway, perhaps if I were a genius, these words might charm our culture more to my liking; provoke a change, or even get me arrested.  For the time being however, the most culturally puissant thing I’m probably going to do, is to shop.  I’ll just drive down to a Wal-Mart or one of the Big Box stores and purchase something.  This simple action as a consumer will probably wield far more influence than I will ever have as an artist. Few will follow my art, but most can spot and make change for a fifty real well.

And that’s just the way it is… for now.  🙂

Photo by Carl Nelson


%d bloggers like this: