Tag Archives: greed

Monday Morning Ramblings

If you watch Fox News or listen to conservative talk radio, you probably believe the Occupy Wall Street protest and the subsequent demonstrations springing up around the nation are nothing more than a collection of neo-hippies, drugged-out radicals, welfare leeches, and uneducated rabble intent on hijacking the government for their own socialist ideology.  These disorganized radicals are at the same time undisciplined lawbreakers and highly trained agents of some secret Leftist cabal planted by Karl Marx himself.  If you believe the far right, this is how totalitarianism begins.

Of course, two years ago, when Tea Party Activists were conducting similar protests, these same pontificators praised protesters as true patriots attempting to save the nation from the evils of government.  Then, protests were our God-given right, guaranteed by the Constitution and paid for by the blood of the Revolution.  It was the duty of concerned citizens to protest the injustices of Death Panels and government bailouts of irresponsible corporations.

I’m not physically there on Wall Street, so I can’t intelligently speak about the people who are protesting.  I also can’t intelligently describe their methods or activities because I haven’t seen them firsthand.  All I’ve seen are video clips and sound bytes from major news outlets, and we all know that the media can manipulate those to fit whatever suits their needs.  What I do know and can speak about intelligently is that the vast majority of us “average” Americans are fed up with corporate greed and government bureaucracy.  We’re  sick of watching laws and regulations manipulated to favor the few and harm the many.  We’re sick of feeling like the entire system is rigged against us.

The other day, I wrote about my hopes for the protests.  Nearly every person I know, regardless of political affiliation, feels like our country is slipping away from us.  Maybe, it’s already too far gone to save.  Maybe, we can salvage our democratic republic and restore liberty to the masses.  Only time will tell, but what is certain is that this current round of protests is fueled by an overwhelming sense of frustration we all feel.

Thursday Morning Ramblings

I only speak for myself and don’t purport to know the motivations and aspirations of the protesters at Wall Street, but if I were among their ranks, the following would be my clearly stated goals of the protest:

I want to live in a nation that respects and rewards a person’s contribution to society fairly and justly.  I would like to earn enough money to pay off my student loan debt, save for retirement, have access to adequate healthcare, and send my children to college, not feel at the end of the month as if I have to choose between food and gas.  I would like to know that my contribution as a professional educator is respected and appreciated, not just by my students and colleagues, but by society as a whole.

I want to live in a nation that holds corporations and CEO’s accountable for moving jobs overseas and hiding billions in profits offshore to avoid paying taxes.  I’d like to see CEO’s punished for bankrupting companies, not compensated with multi-million dollar severance packages.  I want companies to be held accountable if they poison our water supply, make our air unbreathable, taint our children’s toys with lead paint, contaminate our food supply with lethal bacteria, or in any other way recklessly endanger our lives in the name of profit.

I want to live in a nation that once again embraces innovation and ingenuity and doesn’t allow other countries to outpace us in technological advancement.

I want to live in a nation that respects all people who are willing to work full-time, regardless of occupation.  There is dignity and honor in contributing to society, whether that be as white collar, blue collar, or red collar.  All jobs are important, and anyone who is willing to work and be productive should be viewed, not with cynicism and disdain, but with appreciation and admiration.

I want to live in a nation that embraces diversity and respects everyone’s rights to freedom.  Liberty is our birthright, guaranteed by our Constitution, and these freedoms are granted to all citizens of this country regardless of sex, race, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, or any other artificial stratification created to keep us divided and bickering.  We are all American citizens, born with certain unalienable rights.

I want to live in a nation that celebrates and aspires to greatness, not promotes and rewards mediocrity.  Not so long ago, our music, our movies, our books were the best in the world.  Today, we create paper-thin melodies with no soul, recycle worn-out franchises, and cheer poorly written, cliche-riddled narratives.  We have half-baked reality shows rewarding talent-less jackasses and washed up celebrities.  We promote buffoonery and incivility, while creative geniuses play street corners for handouts.

I want to live in the America I was promised as a child, a land of freedom and opportunity, a place where if you built a better mouse-trap, the world would beat a path to your door.  Today, if you build a better mouse-trap, Corporate America and government bureaucracy will trample your aspirations with a myriad of confusing regulations and a maze of overbearing documentation, stifling your innovation in name of preserving the status quo.

Those would be my goals for the protests.

Late Night Ramblings

Sometimes, I feel as if every decision of my life has been wrong.  I question going to college when I had the opportunity to run a fairly successful business my father owned.  Instead of a mountain of student loan debt, I could possibly still have that business.  I question attending Memphis.  I question studying writing.  I outright regret attending graduate school.  All of these decisions have hampered my professional career and left me little more than a second class citizen in a nation that only rewards greed and corruption.

I married the wrong woman and then compounded that mistake by staying in the marriage much too long.  I love my children and wouldn’t trade them for anything, but the marriage was a mistake and has hampered every aspect of my life to this day.  I also regret how I handled my divorce, conceding way too much and leaving myself with too few rights as far as my children are concerned.  I also regret not taking the first two years after the divorce, staying alone, and healing.

I question my decision to teach for Tusculum, to teach period, but especially for them.  Simply put, they are a terrible school that treats their faculty like dirt.  I regret wasting my youth on them.  I also question my decision to return to education after I had escaped.  WSCC is a good school, but I’m no longer happy teaching and wish I had done something else.

I question my decision to self-publish.  I can’t really say it’s amounted to anything other than a few good friends and a handful of good memories.  Financially, it was a disaster.  Given the opportunity to go back, I probably wouldn’t do it over.

In short, just about every major decision of my life has been wrong in one way or another.  I feel like a fool of the grandest scale and also feel like I can’t trust my own judgment.

Thursday Morning Ramblings

The NFL lockout is a pretty good metaphor for where we are as a nation.  While billionaires and millionaires squabble over how to divvy up a $9-10 billion pie, the majority of us are struggling to keep gas in our cars.  It’s shameful to think that we are so far out of balance and so disconnected as a society that we’ve ended up in this situation.  Without us to buy their product, their revenue will dry up, but instead of looking at the bigger picture, both sides are focused on protecting their short-term interests without seeing the long-term ramifications.

To take it a step further, however, the owners seem to have disdain for the players.  In this case, the players are the labor, and currently, Corporate America views labor as a nuisance and an expense, rather than a valuable asset.  Without the players, the owners have nothing to sell, but instead of protecting their product and ensuring quality, ownership seeks to cut benefits, weaken the union, and maximize their profits.  To me, that’s backwards thinking.  The owners should recognize the value these workers add to their companies and maximize profits through the product they sell.  Labor is not disposable, and customers are not guaranteed.

To a degree, I can understand the players’ position.  They put their bodies on the line every day in practice and every game.  They are the ones who fill the seats and generate the revenue, so they want fair compensation for the profits they generate.  However, the fans are the ones buying the tickets, purchasing the merchandise, and watching the games on TV.  Most of us earn a fraction of their salaries despite working jobs that are much more important to the nation as a whole.  While we make hard choices about healthcare and retirement and food, they live lives of luxury and excess.  It’s hard to sympathize with their desire for more when at the end of the month I’m rolling change for lunch money.

This us vs. them mentality between management and labor is truly at the heart of all of our problems as a country.  The divisiveness of this issue permeates every aspect of our society.  Until we heal this rift, our problems will continue to grow.  Until both sides learn that they are really on the same side and are dependent on each other for sustenance, nothing will improve.  Without labor generating their profits, billionaires can’t exist.  Without management making wise, long-term decisions, labor has nothing to do.  And without customers who have both the desire for and the ability to purchase their products, neither side has anything.

Wednesday Night Ramblings

Joel Gates of Green Gates Entertainment

So there’s a lot going on in the world today.  Between riots and massacres in the Middle East, surging oil prices, and labor disputes here in the Midwest, it’s easy to feel as if everything is coming unraveled.  There’s a feeling of panic in the air that’s hard to dismiss.  I feel it all around me, like an unspoken tension hanging in the room.  Some are scared that it’s the end of days, that Mayan or Biblical prophecies are coming true and that all we are seeing right now is a precursor to Armageddon.

Personally, I don’t believe that’s so.  I believe we’re simply in a transitional period between eras, and all of this turmoil and tension is a side effect of one era ending and another beginning.  The age of oil is dying.  For many years, the argument against alternative energies has been that economically they are too cost prohibitive and oil is too cheap.  Now, the pendulum is shifting the other direction.  Oil is simply becoming too expensive and too tumultuous to sustain.  Those with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo are trying desperately to maintain their grip on power, but the tide of change cannot be undone.  Their regime is coming to an end.

I don’t fear the dark days ahead.  Many years ago, I made peace with the fact that our society was going to implode.  You simply can’t sustain a democracy when the majority of your population can’t thrive in your economy.  You can’t sustain an economy when the majority of the jobs pay poverty level wages.  The supply side guys always seem to forget to look at the other side of the equation.  It’s supply and demand, and without both, the system grinds down.  Without a vibrant consumer class, there’s no one to buy what the supply side produces, and I’ve never quite figured out why that concept is so hard for some to figure out.

I also believe that we are about reap what we have sewn as a society and a culture.  Instead of embracing discipline, intelligence, and rational thought, we’ve chased greed, superficiality, and superstition.  We spend ten minutes on the morning news discussing Justin Beiber’s haircut while our infrastructure crumbles.  Anyone else having images of Nero with his fiddle?  While athletes and entertainers rake in millions, we pay police officers, firefighters, and teachers substandard wages, yet scratch our heads as to why nothing works as it should.

And now education is under heavy siege once again.  I’ve heard thoughtful, intelligent friends of mine say that they don’t believe their tax dollars should go to education because they either homeschool or send their children to private schools.  Why should their tax dollars go to a system they don’t even utilize, they ask.  Sure, on the surface they aren’t using the system directly, but I’d be willing to bet that when they hire someone at work, they expect that person to know how to read and write.  When they go to a grocery store, they expect the cashier to be able to count back correct change.  The role of public education isn’t just to educate your children.  It’s to educate everyone so that we have a skilled workforce, one that can compete and innovate and reinvent the economy.

The only change I can make and the only real impact I can have is with myself.  I have the power to create this farm and be part of the solution.  I’ve held back the tide for as long as I can in education, fighting the good fight to pass along my knowledge and love of language.  I simply don’t have it in me to take yet another pay decrease or take on even more responsibilities.  My plan is in motion, and I’m not looking back.

Today, we received two donations for the farm–one from an anonymous donor and one from Joel Gates of Green Gates Entertainment.  Joel has long been a supporter of these Ramblings, and we’re very grateful to have his endorsement for the farm.  Please, check out his blog and thank him for me.

Thursday Afternoon Ramblings

I just read an article about the NFL CBA dispute, and it really makes me sick.  How fucking greedy can people be?  The owners, all multi-billionaires on their own, are unwilling to share more of the pie with the athletes, all of whom make more in one season than I can make in my career as a teacher.  Really, guys?  At this point in our nation’s economic situation, you are going to squabble over how you share the $9 billion a year revenue?  Maybe I’m just overly sensitive, but that just seems like a slap in the face to every middle-class citizen in this country.  Most of us are struggling, really struggling, just to see a little daylight in our lives, and you greedy bastards are fighting over sharing billions.  That just infuriates me.

If one game, even pre-season, gets cancelled over this bullshit, I swear I’ll stop watching.  Major League Baseball pulled the same horseshit in 94, and the sport nearly went bankrupt before they let Mark McGuire juice up and hit extra-far-traveling baseballs in that sham 98 season.  Many people who were avid baseball fans haven’t seen a game since 94, and I will be like one of them.  You are already overpaid, all of you, and now at this point, you want to get even more greedy?  That’s a big load of bullshit, and I won’t be part of it.

I realize that my lone little act of defiance won’t really make a difference in this argument, and long-term, much like baseball, the NFL will survive, but the greed just astonishes me.