Youthful Perceptions

by

John Wright

 

I was reared in a small western Pennsylvania community in the post WWII era. Steel, Coal, religious conservatism, bigotry, class segregation by ethnic origin and race, high ideals, rigid social structure, very obvious differences in wealth, crime, Ö put them in any order and, well, order really doesnít matter, they were all real. I was "lucky." I belonged to the "right" group Ö that is, the landed okay folks from respectable backgrounds who controlled it all, or at least were well connected, except for those *&^$%^* mercantile, medical and legal beagle Jews who lived at the "top of the hill!" People who were not in the right group, as explained to me many times, were not very moral, not very intelligent and not good choices for companions. That is why we didnít mingle with them socially, or, heaven forbid, marry one of them. That is why they had the lesser jobs and were relatively poor, permanently. That is why their communities were clearly segregated.

One aspect of what I was taught did become very important to me. I was told that everyone was working hard to make life better than it had ever been. Thus, I too expected to work hard and my expectations of life regularly getting better were high both for myself and for all other people. This was a simple but powerful idea that became the bedrock of my value system. You could achieve to the limits of your ability if you were willing to work hard towards your goals. There was/is no room for laziness or incompetence. There was/is no room for unearned selfish acquisition. It was never right to steal. Lying was/is inherently destructive and undermines the primary goal of making life better. Lying is stealing.

With that very balanced and obviously fair and objective upbringing I am well prepared to explain to you the progression of society on planet Earth today and all that is happening, what it means and where we are going. Oh, holy fright, much of my understanding, such as it was, came from what should not have been! My experiences were distorted and tribal in nature! I must, therefore, ask for your indulgence in considering my youthful perceptions, at least for the moment.

I guess I really was "reared." Uh, huh. It took me a while as a young adult and a lot of youthful belief in the golden rule to understand my background opposite life as it really is outside the cocoon of a small, very small-minded and divided community. Some of what I was taught was relevant, especially that we do not live in a classless society. There is always heirarchy. But about the hard work and perceptions of what life should be, it didnít fit reality. Even after all our presumed and advertised and legislated social enlightenment from 1960 to 2000, a.k.a. feminism, racial equality, the Great Society, endless entitlements, getting tough on crime; nothing has changed, nothing at all has changed, in my birth town or anywhere else. Oh, yes, the names have changed Ö the people alive today in my birth town are mostly unfortunate descendants of those who participated in some manner in my life and my upbringing, but in all other ways nothing at all has changed except that we now have a global community. That community is as interesting, as complex and as divided as anything I saw as a child. Maybe more so as bright minds and power seekers exist in all races and cultures, and some of the downtrodden cultures/nations fifty years ago are winners today.

Oh, sure, of course some things have changed in over 40 years, but not the essential and always dominant facts of societal competition and distinct classes or subgroups in society, based on wealth, race, education, vocation, looks, religion, etc. And we have lots more people now. Even the dullest of us are experts in reproducing. Now lets take a look at a few real evolutionary changes Ö

We do have modern miracles in medicine, but extremely high cost for medical services and a resultant decline in choices and frequently quality due to managed health care pressures on plan participating physicians to crank us through quickly and cheaply. There are, after all, a lot of us to be "serviced." A good friend recently told me about a relatively new way for people to get high quality care from personal physicians Ö it is called the Medical Boutique. A group of quality physicians decide to limit themselves to a few patients who have deep pockets and who pay cash well beyond insurance coverage. In this manner the physicians return to the better days of yesteryear by giving full attention and plenty of personal time to each patient and by having vastly superior income not hampered by stupid policies of managed health care organizations. Corporations, who no longer want to cover their employees or retirees in a quality manner, fund those non-value-added cost control organizations. Oh my, wealth wins again.

We donít have the cold war, but Iím not confident that we will have peace either going forward. We do have massive societal restrictions imposed by government that simply didnít exist 40 years ago, taking the form of much higher taxes and harsher controls in gun laws, personal privacy, employee protections and other previous freedom of choice areas. Can you believe anything as stupid as "political correctness" could ever have come about? It is the antithesis of speaking frankly and independent thinking and freedom of speech. And we have police state practices and court decisions, both criminal and civil, that make me want to gag as we lose our freedoms and personal protections to horribly bad legislation or the lack thereof of good legislation. It was a great deal easier living before the advent of heavy restrictions whose ultimate source was government, as freedoms were real and people tended to mind their own business. For example, if your local police officer pulled you over for a minor traffic violation in the 1950ís and noted that you had been drinking, it was typical for that officer to tell you to drive home and to follow you to make sure you got there. Contrast that to the DUI world of today. Today sucks!

I have another example that really makes my point. The state of Delaware is prepared to prosecute and possibly sentence a man to six months in prison for a misdemeanor: that of being found responsible in an automobile accident in which someone died. Note that drugs or alcohol were not involved, just bad judgment and/or carelessness. The death of anyone by automobile accident is a tragedy, but now we may have at least one additional tragedy, for the individual may lose his job, and if he has dependents those dependents will suffer financially. A home and/or a car might be repossessed due to loss of income. Arenít those legislative and court folks in Delaware just great? I suppose the exact circumstances might warrant harsh action if the individual happens to be one of the "out of control" cowboys who should not be on the road at all. Or maybe the individual was responsible for another death in some earlier accident, thus establishing that he is a hazard to other travelers. You might, however, ask yourself what Delaware would actually accomplish, for six months from possible sentencing the individual will be back on the road Ö and likely not in Delaware, for simply leaving will eliminate any power of the state to withhold or limit driving privileges. Other potential "cowboys" will ignore the sentencing in the same manner that budding young criminals ignore laws and sentences handed out to other criminals. It just doesnít work as a deterrent, folks. Never has, never will! All the state is doing is exacting retribution for foolishness. Will the individual receive driver training if he goes to prison? What will happen to the individual when the civil court process begins, for surely the relatives of the dead person will sue? My guess is that insurance, if there is any, will not come close to covering jury awarded damages. Thus, the individual must prepare for a second or third-rate future of dodging judgment collectors. The simple point I am making is that our knee-jerk response to real problems exposes a society that is badly warped, both in high places and among the common people.

I find that my inner values and my high expectations cause me not to need or appreciate excessive controls via government. I expect other citizens to be like me. I expect that values will be taught to children that will make each individual behave responsibly as an adult, thus making government interference with our private lives ridiculous. So it is that I have become what I would call a societal prosecutor. I am maddened by our evolution/devolution. I cannot believe the levels of incompetence and stupidity that I find in high as well as low places. Lying now seems to be an accepted mode of promoting oneself or oneís goals, in business and elsewhere. I am horrified. This is not my version of life continuously getting better. For every technological gain we make we seem to create two societal losses at the hands of our governments and our business leaders. Our common citizens are becoming less responsible, not self-motivated and self-reliant individualists.

We societal prosecutors typically, in our own sneaky way, presume to compliment the "honest" efforts of those whom we wish to destroy. Thus it is that I am prepared to give our modern leaders/criminals a "get out of jail free" card by simply establishing that they are no better and no worse (and no brighter, I might add) than most of the glorious leaders who preceded them. That is to say, the brighter and more selfish humans of this time in history are doing the same things as their ancestors of 100, 200, 300, 3000 years ago. They are getting "theirs" in whatever manner necessary, which means the enslavement of the rest of the people on behalf of those who can and do control them and use them as they see fit (anybody want to take a ride in a Humvee in Iraq?). Would you like to contribute a tractor to the Indian Agricultural Progress Fund (to help those poor starving people!)? Eh, nothing new there. I guess Iím angry that during my long life we appear to be regressing socially more than progressing technologically. Things were bad enough 40 years ago. Now our leaders have made them much worse. And most of us arenít helping to solve that problem.

So what we have globally is a larger, nastier playground. Same games, same rules, more players, and yesterdayís apparent economic realities no longer so. I am reminded of my senior year in high school, when our invincible football team happened to expand its horizons and play a distant game in West Virginia. We got trounced! How could that be? How is it that mere hillbillies could presume to compete, and win, against our stellar, cosmopolitan forces? Oh, darn! It looks like history repeats now on a much grander scale and with more serious areas of human concern. The prizes now are quality food, attractive shelter, upscale clothing and transportation, not to mention quality vacations and funds to educate our young to be competitive. Ouch! This isnít a game after all! This is the real thing! Many of those distant cultures that fared worse than us economically fifty years ago are now competing with us, thanks to globalization and international outsourcing, not to mention our insatiable, consumptive habits.

If I return to my youthful perceptions, I see all of this as fair, for I was taught that performance should determine rewards. Let me clarify that statement Ö actual, as opposed to perceived or weighted performance should and will ultimately determine rewards. It simply takes moneyed idiots in established businesses a bit longer to fail. And dependent people who rely on our government and our corporations for financial and physical security are being proven foolish. Our immediate problem is, wage disparities in different geographies at this moment in history cause we ordinary USA citizens to be cut down harshly while those who take our jobs are living better than ever before on what we would call slave wages. Thus it is that where you come from economically determines your sense of what you need to be contented. Going backwards is unpleasant and raises the questions of fairness and legality.

Lets step back and take a look at the big picture. Prior to GATT/NAFTA one might say that capitalism was created and allowed to prevail here essentially to best serve the development of commerce and quality of life within our country. Sure, we had later events like welcoming the Japanese into our automobile market, but that could be seen as a byproduct of WWII and the cold war. That is, it was in our military interest and in our national conscience to promote successful democracy in Japan after WWII.

Today, there is no military issue. There is no need to bootstrap the economy of any war-torn nation other than Iraq. This means that globalization of capitalism is being used today essentially to enhance only the wealth of corporations. That was not part of our nationís initial purpose in embracing capitalism, for our forefathers, like Thomas Jefferson, did not trust even the concept of corporations, as they could become too powerful and self-serving. So they have. Todayís corporations are an evolutionary development that has proceeded with too few checks and balances. You see, the amount of total national and international wealth owned by the large corporations is massive. That owned by the common citizens is not. Guess who is in the drivers seat?

We hear that capitalism creates wealth by companies inventing new products and developing new markets, which leads to the creation of new jobs. Historically, prior to globalization, that was a basically true statement. Now, the new jobs idea is invalid, which means the promise of creation of wealth on behalf of the citizens of our country, and its work willing and capable citizens, is phony. A good idea, misused, has become a monster. Our larger corporations are not serving their original intended purpose within the USA. Did I make that CLEAR? Our larger corporations are not, I repeat, NOT serving their intended purpose! Nor could our ancestors have conceived of what has occurred within the last fifty years. Our most fundamental laws and national concepts embodied in our Constitution and our Bill of Rights, not to mention various corporation-favored Supreme Court decisions later in our history (1880ís and later), are completely inadequate to address the present reality.

I wrote about this problem in my book, Destiny. I made clear the necessity to contain corporate size and profits, and the need to force wage parity in any international business development, so as not to undermine we folks at home or the individuals overseas who are, lets be honest, working for crap wages. They simply donít know any better. Within one generation or less they will wise up (I hope). But meanwhile we common citizens in the USA are paying the price of corporate greed.

It is the crushing of the ordinary USA citizen, economically, that is the immediate problem. The solution is as it has always been in the USA Ö we support our federal government based on the promise that they exist to protect us. If that protection fails then our government has failed and must be modified or replaced. Such modification could take the form of new legislators and radical changes to existing laws, along with the passage of new laws appropriate to our economic protection. If that does not happen, then the federal government of the USA is not fit to continue, and must be eliminated and replaced. That is and always has been the prerogative of USA citizens, and for the first time in my life I see an issue sufficiently serious as to warrant that consideration, and possibly action. You see, when parents start to eat their young, there is something drastically wrong, so drastic solutions become appropriate.

Ah, the memories of youth. My it felt good to be on the inside track. What a negative surprise it was to "leave town" and discover how unimportant I was. What valuable lessons I learned Ö first, there is nothing about the inside track that is inherently justifiable. Second, any unearned advantage (yes, corporate advantages unavailable to ordinary people are unearned) should be seen as unfair and unlawful, particularly when they affect our common citizens negatively. Third, when the course of history followed by our government and business leaders continually repeats the past practices of pitting ordinary people against each other, to their detriment, it is time to stop the insanity.

Let us stop the insanity at the next election. And if we canít Ö well, I hate to go there, but it may be necessary. Think about how many financial insults, service devolutions, freedom deprivations and fears of ruination you will need before you act. Start counting now.

Let us remember that good judgment, morality and a solid work ethic cannot be legislated. We are individually responsible to be high-minded and to rear our children accordingly. Dependence on the paternal corporation and the paternal federal government has now been utterly proven to be unwise. Dependence on anything other than your own hard work and high productivity is wrong. Allowing people of lesser values to command and control our entire society is also wrong. That is one lesson I wish I had been taught while young. Instead, I was taught to trust the powerful. What a terrible mistake!

We are left with a series of ugly "Catch Ė22ís." The government that brought us absurd entitlement programs is now backing off, long after the citizenry gave up feelings of personal responsibility. Meanwhile, the corporations have become ever larger via mergers and acquisitions, so we have fewer viable employment alternatives from which to relearn personal responsibility and earn our way to the American Dream. Then, those same corporations are undermining our job base with international outsourcing. Get this, they donít want you! Whee! Welcome to "Wal-Mart World" where you are paid very little and live on the margin. Those low prices for stuff made in China donít matter when you work two scut jobs and still lack the income to get beyond basic food and shelter. The Chinese, however, are living better, for there are still segments of USA employment that have not been wrecked, and those folks can buy the stuff from China at very low Wal-Mart prices, while you suffer. What is your path forward? How can you change your destiny? Realistically, do you have any reason to hope for a better personal future? I hope you do. And I hope you know how you are going to accomplish that most difficult task.