Monthly Archives: June 2012

Get Out Of Your Way

It’s a sad day when you find out that it’s not accident or time or fortune, but just yourself that kept things from you.
-Lillian Herman

On days like today, quotes like that provide the conviction and discipline I lack more often than I’d prefer.

And is that not the truest, saddest tragedy? At the end of the day, it’s more often our own fault for lost dreams and broken hope.

In an industrial society which confuses work and productivity, the necessity of producing has always been an enemy of the desire to create.
-Raoul Vaneigem

For all the great qualities America possesses, there are several devastating deficiencies. Let me be blunt: America is the land of conformity, not creativity. We preach individuality one moment, and mock those who look, talk, or act different. It’s okay to be an individual as long as you’re the same as everyone around you.

It’s our own fault for lost dreams and broken hope. As youth, we hold to an idealized vision of our future, but as age and societal pressures grow, we let that dream evaporate. It’s no wonder  aging is so stigmatized; growing older is synonymous with growing up. However, growing up means not just aging, but letting go of “foolish” ideas and wishes of our youth. The Great American Tragedy is this idea of Growing Up and all the dreams and potential that could have been.

Because we live in a society of could have been’s. Enter Mid-Life Crisis, stage left.

But maybe, just maybe, if we realize it’s OK to hold on to our silly hopes and dreams, then we can face the tomorrow, or the next year with bright anticipation of the potential accomplishments ahead.

But, despite the media and social norms, it’s ultimately your choice. Your doubt and fears can hold you back, or you can choose to remove your own worst obstacle, you.

Ladies and gentlemen, that’s true individualism realized.

P.S. It’s become a bit of a tradition for me to leave you with some music, and I will not disappoint! I think this song relatively fits the topic above. Not to mention this is a great music video:

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Life Put On Repeat

I like to consider this a work in progress.

As I mentioned earlier, I would be posting a new short story in the near future. And as promised, here’s the latest of my writing attempts:  Life Put On Repeat

This is easily the shortest of any story I’ve written. For that reason and others, I am considering this story still a work in progress. It’s ‘done,’ in the sense that everything I wanted in the story is there, but I think it could use some more development. The only reason it stands where it does is everything I’ve thought of to add to the story didn’t work for one reason or another.

Let me know your suggestions.

Oh, and this song:

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Society, You’re a Crazy Breed

“Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity, nothing exceeds the criticisms made of the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.”  -Herman Melville

Well that’s counter-cultural to the fundamental idea of America.

If you know me, you are likely aware that I am frustrated, disgusted, and disenchanted with a great deal of things. And I am far from alone in this perspective. Although such negativity can cause problems, I am not convinced that such an outlook is unhealthy. In every situation, someone should ask “how could this be done better?” If this question ceases to find voices, a level of stagnation and apathy arises that is unhealthy. With that said, I struggle with many aspects of American society.

Go pick up today’s newspaper or click over to a world news website; read a few headlines, and it wont take long for you to agree that selfishness and greed are behind a majority of problems occurring throughout the globe. Selfishness and greed has plagued the world since the beginning of humanity and will continue to do so until the end; this is an unfortunate fact of life in every country and every culture. The difference between others and America is here in this blessed nation, selfishness and greed have been institutionalized; they form the foundation of American society.

Rugged individualism—the “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” doctrine—was, and is, a founding principle for America. The denotation of rugged individualism is, at worst, neutral but likely appears positive—another case of the “sounds good, but is really a terrible idea” dilemma. This “take care of yourself” mentality is accompanied by an unspoken subscript that many fail to read: take care of yourself, and forget everyone else. Even if this is not the case, this mentality is the result from such individualism.

Here in the United States of America, there is no worse crime than to infringe on someone’s individuality or right to be an individual. Me, my, mine: These are the articles upon which our nation has been built.

Let me pause for a moment. No, I”m not a communist; I’m not arguing for communism; I’m not even necessarily promoting socialism. I am simply pointing at the faulty foundations upon which an entire nation and culture has been built.

In a country supported by a consumer culture of the latest and greatest, businesses have made “I want” and “I need” interchangeable. Impulse buying, retail therapy, window shopping. It’s all about me and getting what I want. Me.

People that complain about taxes and the various things their taxes pay for will invariably mention “my hard-earned money” or something to that effect. My.

Along with this selfishness, comes an element of possession. “That’s mine” isn’t a statement; it’s a warning. Mine.

A nation based on a conglomerate of selfish interests cannot last. It will work for a while; it will even prosper for decades, as we’ve seen. However, selfish interest will always favor those in power—those with money. Selfishness and greed have no room for concern of others: a point made evident in 2008 with the crash of sub-prime mortgages.

The “have’s” will always want more, and there is no one easier to steal from than the “have not’s.”  The lower in society an individual falls, the smaller his or her voice will be. While those in poverty aren’t immune to selfishness and greed, their selfish interest is often focused more on simply surviving to next week.

In a society ruled by greed, the “have’s” will shrink in numbers while growing in wealth; In selfish competition, someone must lose. Eventually, the majority of wealth will be (and is) concentrated in the hands of a small few:

Once this happens, the scale of power will favor a small minority, while disenfranchising a majority. You know, democracy. It doesn’t matter that the policies damage the livelihood of a millions of citizens because no one hears their cries, either because they’re too disenchanted to try or too busy working to provide enough income to survive to be active politically. Try working two or three jobs just to barely survive AND lobby Congress; it just doesn’t happen.

Here’s one current example: There’s been a lot of talk in the past year about ways to solve the U.S. debt crisis. One side of the debate focused on this concept of “widening the tax base.” They began citing figures that nearly 50% of American citizens do not pay any income taxes, which is true. But, what they don’t tell you quickly explains why.

First off, because an individual pays no income tax does not mean they don’t pay payroll, property, and other taxes. Second, roughly 50% of Americans pay no income tax because of their income level.  This ‘mischievous’ group of people who are somehow scamming the government, for the most part, make less 20,000$ a year. Why do they pay no income taxes? Because they barely have enough money to support a family before taxes. (Here’s one of many articles discussing this:

And yet, this was (and might still be) considered a viable solution to our situation. Why? Because those with wealth are sure not going to part with any of their money, so they’d rather tax those in poverty.

I’m not here to preach doom and gloom and condemn America as some great evil of a nation, but we clearly have a problem. The future is not bright for the once great United States of America. If our nation continues to head this direction, the economic, political, and social environment will only degrade more. A country that disenfranchises and oppresses a majority of its citizens cannot stand.  The numbers of the oppressed will grow, as the numbers of the oppressors shrink. Eventually, the oppressed majority will rise up and react. Again, democracy.

Again, let me reiterate that I’m not necessarily arguing for some radical change in our system (although, I’m not entirely against that idea). Rather, I am arguing for a change in perspective; a change in mindset. Stop viewing this world through the eyes of an individual, and recognize the community within which we live. Selfishness and greed are fundamental faults that have always plagued humanity and always will, yet this does not excuse us from striving to reduce the influence of these vices.

Life is nothing; life is meaningless if it’s a life lived only for one’s self. Humans crave company—connection with others. I pray for the day when we see the plight of our fellow man, place our own desires aside, and reach out to those in need of our support. I hope for a day when we reach a level of equality throughout our society, not through begrudged political systems, but through genuine compassion for one another. Yes, this is my dream.

“You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” -Zig Ziglar

P.S. I found it amusing that Pandora gave me this song as I finished up this post:

Lyrics are in the description of the video if you head to the Youtube page.

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