“Too poor to vote Republican”

Too poor to vote republican

I saw a bumper sticker that said, “Too poor to vote Republican.” After laughing at the joke, I thought that it was kind of insulting to the Republicans who are poor. But then I grew serious, because this divisiveness is exactly what the Democratic party apparatus would like us to follow. Where do they get their millions of dollars to run for office? Do they cobble it together from the poor? I would guess not. Does it matter? Do they still fight for the poor? Yes, they do. But in recent years, they’ve tried to help the poor while they’ve promoted the wealthy to concentrate their wealth using a growing, unregulated banking industry…an industry that helped bring down the whole economy because of their dishonesty and greed. Of course, all of our 401k’s are with these banks, and we benefit from their dishonesty, but the question is, if we know they are dishonest, what does that make us…?

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Who are you voting for?

When someone speaks reasonably about unreasonable things, they are either a genius, or a madman. Cast your vote carefully. If a person talks about spending money they don’t have, putting value in something that has no inherent value, taking away your liberties to fight an unseen enemy to protect your liberties, find another person to vote for. Gridlock ends when we elect people, from president to state rep, who will do the right thing, not follow what was done before because that’s the way things were always done.

Remember: There are many who are thinking just as you are.

Will this offensive cartoon determine how you vote?

Is this an offensive cartoon?

Thinking this way about Democrats is just as wrong as thinking that Republicans are selfish, judgmental moralists.

There are plenty of those people in both Parties.

This is funny because it is a cartoon, but it’s a lot less funny because it’s dividing us based on ideology…an ideology that I don’t see being put into practice by either party. Meanwhile, bigger issues are neglected as both parties are supporting deficit spending, market manipulation (see the last one’s disastrous result in 2008), and protecting us from unseen enemy by waging perpetual war and taking our right to trial (NDAA 2012)

What do you think is important in this year’s election?

Are you voting based on ideology or action?

Your strength is needed. Now…more than ever.

Some people think they know better than others. You know the type. They give advice on everything. They believe they have the system of do’s and don’ts that will work. They want what is best for you. And they believe they know what the best thing for you to do is. In fact, they think they know what is best for everyone.

Others believe it’s better for people to make their own choice. They believe people will strive, work, share, and care for others. Not because we’re forced to, but because in a stable system of laws, that is what we will do. They believe people should have the freedom to live how they want, but without hurting others. To choose what passion to follow, where to work, how much to pay, how much to get paid, what to buy, how to explore their own consciousness, and who to congregate with.

There are those who want a system of control because they want to protect people, not just from others, but protect them from making the wrong choices. They want to protect us from ourselves. They are cautious of people. Do they even trust people?

They like giving guidelines, and providing a program. They believe in a high standard of living, and they want everyone to have that standard, not just the opportunity for that standard, because they think everyone deserves it. And they will engineer a system using their formula of mandates that will get you this, regardless of how this effects the financial condition of the country. They will make it too affordable to pass up or they will cook it into the system so you have no choice.

These people truly want to help others.

And they believe they are the expert authority on that. And they believe in a central authority. Like a central bank that controls money, or a central insurance company that controls health care, or a central department of energy and agriculture to provide corporate welfare. Or a police authority that has taken our right to trial, so we can be arrested without charge.

Those who believe in people are different. They are courageous, because living an empowered life is damn scary. But that is why we are here. Not to make a perfect world, but to accept that life is not going to be perfect, and anything that is worth doing in life is risky. And caring about someone else is not about giving them something. It’s about being their friend and helping them face to face, not through a check delivered by a service taken from our paycheck.

We’re here to make choices, not have someone else make them for us.

We’re here to get hurt, mend, learn, and grow. And when we see someone else hurting, we’re here to extend our own hand and help them up. Not pay others to help them for us. Because people need to intimately know they are valued before they can do something of value. And because you cannot make someone care about you by forcing them to share with you.

We’re here to explore our passions and our own consciousness without being restricted on what we can do, unless it hurts another person.

We know that we cannot get as far alone as we can by joining others, but not in faceless networks. We’re here to share life in a community, because we must have the opportunity to learn that without guidelines or incentives, a rich life is one of honest collaboration with others.

We know that if we give leaders the authority to do things on behalf of us, we must remain aware of how they are using this power. And that we must stop them when we feel they are doing a disservice to us.

We know that we should treat everyone else how we would want to be treated. And so we act accordingly.

These people trust humanity to do the right thing.

Some might call these libertarian values.

But they are not.

They are called human values.

And I believe it is how we should live.

How to make your vote count

Many feel that money influences our representatives.

Many believe that elections are decided by money rather than votes. I think this is correct, but only in so much as we believe that is true and willingly throw our vote away or not vote. I know this because I was one of those who felt helpless and didn’t bother voting.

I was helping to creating an environment of hopelessness. An environment that promoted the idea that our neighbors are ignorant, dumb, and lazy. Then I realized something important. With this attitude, we will never elect any real change into office. We will think our personal vote doesn’t matter because it will be diluted by the mass of humanity who isn’t paying attention.

But I was wrong. I was more than wrong, in fact. I was part of the problem!

As much as people are focused on themselves and their wants and their opinions, they are also influneced by their environment. In fact, studies have shown if a person is given a test with an obvious answer, they will change their answer to the wrong one when they are put into a group of people who provide that wrong answer!

It is indeed true, if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. Devalue your vote and your fellow citizen’s capacity to do the right thing, and after a time, you will find that that is precisely the environment you live in.

Value that vote. Ask others how they’re voting. And why.

In Egypt (and Syria, and Tunisia, and Bahrain) people are rioting against military police because they don’t want to be told what to do by a dictator. They are being arrested without trial by secret police and being tortured because they want the right to vote.

Don’t throw your vote away.

The question to ask yourself is: What are the most important issues? And are the Democrats or Republicans addressing these issues, or avoiding them?

Remember, the power is still with us.

You are more important than you think

“How can I help you?”
“I was calling to close my Citi accounts.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. And why are you wanting to close your account?”
“Well, after I’ve been reading about the part that Citi played in buying and selling mortgage bond derivatives, going into huge debt, which caused the market to collapse, I feel that I can’t do business with them.”
“Uh. Ok. So you’re closing your bank account because of the mortgage bond derivatives or whatever?”
“Yes.”
“Ok.”
Silence.
“You know, back in 2008 the market crashed-”
“Oh, I know. I’ve been an account specialist for 10 years.”
“Ok”
“So you’re closing your Citi account? Are you not having a bank account anymore…?”
“I’m closing all my Wall St bank accounts. And keeping my accounts with my local bank.”
“Ok. Well, I can’t turn back the clock, unfortunately. It looks like you had a lot of activity on your accounts.”
“Yes.”
“So 4 years later you’re closing your account..”
“Yes, I would’ve done it sooner, but I didn’t know things would turn out like they did.”
“Well, I can’t speak to the actions of the bank, but restitution has been made and we’ve moved ahead.”
“I don’t think it has. The US market collapsed, and, you know, there’s blame to go around, but I think the banks need to face the consequence of their actions.”

The best part about living in a free society is that if someone does wrong, we don’t have to work for them if we don’t want to. We can quit. Or if there is someone who works for us and they do wrong? We can fire them if the government won’t do it.

The government, of course, encouraged the banks to give out mortgages by providing them the money, which led to homes being overvalued, and people getting homes who wouldn’t have been given mortgages before, but then defaulting on their payments.

But the bankers made the bad loans, and the Wall St banks deceptively packaged the bad loans with the good and sold them with good ratings, so it feels right that I fired all the Wall Street bankers that were working for me. Given, I’m still part of the system. And my money is still coming from a corporation, since I work for one. But it’s not coming from the most carelessly powerful corporations of all. The ones that the government is allowing to exist in the same too-big-to-fail capacity that they were in before the crash of 2008. Apparently, these banks should be called too-big-to-control.

But I controlled my business with them. And if we all do that, and make it known we will not stand for such clear carelessness and deceit, and we will not have our bank accounts, 401k’s, or credit cards with them, then I think the banks will be controlled. And they will be controlled in the best way possible:

By the customers who they have wronged and who must pay for their bailout.

And that’s you and me.

Engage. You don’t need to be an expert.

Do we talk to other people about what we’re doing? About what they’re doing? Do we ask why we do what we do..buy what we buy, bank who we bank with..eat what we eat..send our kids to the schools that we send them to, fund the wars that kill for goals we support? Do we not only talk, but do we listen to what they’re saying…and even more importantly, think about what they really mean?

Are we trying to be members of a community, or do we see everyone as doing their own thing, a zero sum game, as passengers on a ship out of our control? Or do we see ourselves as part of it, as responsible for it, unafraid of facing the problems of our society?

Why we don’t do these things is addressed by Meslin. He says: “As long as we believe that people, our own neighbors, are selfish, stupid or lazy, then there’s no hope.” We must recognize this, because it is the collective that is going to change things. And once we accept this, we must have a conversation.

Politics isn’t a bad word unless you’re using it to win an argument, or give yourself an identity. Politics, in fact, is probably the most important thing to talk about right now. Not partisanship…but politics. There’s only one thing more important, and that’s figuring out that you belong in the conversation because you’re not an island onto yourself. That’s what Obama meant, but couldn’t really express.

We’re not different than anyone else, regardless of what they’re doing out there. The guy between jobs, the CEO, or the small businessperson. We have the opportunity to decide because people believed so much in the idea that we’re all equal, that they were willing to die for a system that could give us the power to decide…and it DID give ALL OF US the power to decide. And we must decide, or else the institutions, corporate and government, they will do it for us. And I think these institutions have gotten too big to handle our needs. It’s up to us to start this conversation.

Now, it’s up to us.

Who do you trust?

I was at the Nelsonville Music Festival this past weekend, at what may be the most underrated music festival in the whole of our United States of America. Under glorious clear skies, I walked around watching everyone sharing the campgrounds. There was no harassing, no thievery. You met others, shared what you had, and enjoyed yourself. There was a feeling of trust. A trust that is missing in many of the places we live.

Trust is powerful. It allows us to flourish. Trust builds friendship. It allows us to talk with others and expect to be respected. It gives us patience with life. But that’s just the start of it.

Trust makes you do the right thing

When you trust that others will do the right thing, then you will do the right thing regardless if that doesn’t do much to change the big picture, like if you choose to abstain from eating animals when most everyone else does not. Or being honest with the company expense account while others skim a little. Or moving your money out of Wall St banks when most other continue to use them. Or voting for a third party while most do not because they think it’s “throwing a vote away”. If everyone doesn’t trust others to do the right thing, then everyone will continue doing the wrong thing.

Trust brings about prosperity

When we work together, each with our expertise, we do great things. When we specialize in our areas of mastery, we can share the fruits of our labor equally in a collective society. Trust makes others know you will come through for them, just like they will come through for you. And the appreciation from others gives us a feeling of purpose. A reason to feel important in a world where it can be confusing to know what truly is important.

Matt Ridley makes a great observation of this in his book, The Rational Optimist: Self-sufficiency is associated with less wealth, while specialization with more wealth. And self-sufficiency takes a lot of time! The leisure time most of us have today is significant. And in a way, this leisure is more important than trust. This past weekend, it was this leisure time that allowed me to see trust demonstrated by interacting with others, by building a small community of respect and value.

How we use our leisure time is important, but it all starts with building confidence in our fellow human beings. Trust is having courage in the face of the unknown. It’s knowing that whatever happens, it’s going to be ok.

I felt that trust this weekend. I was reminded of how it made life better. It also reminded me that without it, we are likely lost.

Remove the money gag

How would you rate the following in importance?

-Tax breaks for gay and straight married couples
-Wall Street banks paying fines a fraction of the $30 trillion the government loaned them to keep their collapse from taking down our economy.
-Government money to cover contraception

What do we need to focus on? All of these involve controlling money. Is that the problem?

The money isn’t the problem. It’s how the government is engineering the country as if money is our only motivator.

Good leaders trust the human spirit, not carrots and sticks

Good leaders don’t use regulations and incentives. But our leaders are doing so today. They’re trying to regulate Wall St bankers to prevent their recklessness from hurting us again in the future. But regulations restrict us and push us to find a way around them. That is why three times since 1990, the banks have almost collapsed and why the government bailed them out each time. If you knew you were going to get your money back, would you be more or less careless when spending it?

And incentives? Incentives bribe us. Research shows that when you start giving rewards, people are pretty predictable. They stop doing for the sake of doing, and shift to doing for the reward. When you start going to work so that you can get money to buy stuff, the stuff becomes the reward and the job becomes less of a choice.

We’re not animals. But if you use carrots and sticks on us, we will tune our motivations to that type of environment

How can these two things be the foundation of leadership, of government, of a community?

They can’t.

Are there any leaders today that inspire you? Most leaders of today aren’t going to be the people in government. Those who seek power in a system that has been compromised have compromised themselves. Granted, they may change some things. They may nibble at the fringes. But that cancer still grows inside.

Despite what media and culture tells us, leaders aren’t special. They aren’t chosen by divine providence or fate. They don’t have abilities different than you and me. Do you empower others? Ask people what they think? Do you encourage people? Then you’re probably a leader, or you can become one now that you see what it takes.

Leaders make things happen, yes. But:

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves”

This Taoist quote tells us it’s about us doing something. It’s always been about us. And I think we can do this. It’s going to require us to remove the gag of money that has both silenced and motivated us. It’s going to require looking past the “I want to get mine if they’re getting theirs”. It’s going to require stopping the consumer train, and looking at what we’re feeding the engine. It’s going to require putting our heads together and not letting party or social class or emotions divide us and distract us from doing the right thing.

Let’s kill the noise and start listening to reality

Elections are where we can flex our muscle. But we’ve got to do our homework before then. Listen to what’s being reported. Do you think it’s important? We’ve got to talk to people and not be afraid to ask them why they believe what they do. Your neighbor isn’t stupid or lazy, and neither are you. Politics isn’t personal. It’s what a community depends on for its survival! And if we think one party or one person can fix this country, we’ve missed the point. This country is here because people had the courage of their convictions to join together and risk everything for what they believed in.

I think we can step up and be leaders again.

“Yea, but we do.”

I was in the gym the other day and there were weights all over the place, but they weren’t on any racks. Some dumbells were strewn on the floor and the barbells were left on the bars. I arranged the weights that I needed, racking some to make room for the weight I wanted, and I did my exercises. When I was done, I started to put the weights back, but I hesitated, thinking, “Why should I? No one else did.” Then I thought of Erik.

Erik is one of my most interesting friends. He is a writer, which might explain why he was so interesting. He likes Goth clubs, but he always seemed to be an outsider, like he was researching a book he was writing. He dresses their way, he likes the same music, and he is highly tolerant of their unique lifestyle. But Erik isn’t angry at anyone. In fact, he likes everyone. His smile literally beams as shiny as his shaved head and black combat boots. I like Erik because he simply does his thing, with adventurous heart and a thinking mind. I visited him soon after he had moved to Las Vegas and we found ourselves in his gym.

We did bench press and the weights were not racked. We arranged the weight for ourselves and did our sets, taking turns until I finished the last set. Erik started putting the weights away, and I said, “Erik, let’s leave them. Other people didn’t put their weights away.” Erik didn’t look up as he continued pulling off barbells, “Yea, but we do.”

I thought about this a few days ago, although I’d shrugged it off at the time and helped him begrudgingly. I thought about how easy it is to pass up doing the right thing. Our actions are lost in anonymity… all of us shop at the big superstores which use greeters now as they try to replicate the feeling of the mom and pop shops that they (and us) are putting out of business. We buy things made in the China because it would require serious effort to go without that item or find an alternative to it that was made here. It’s easy to keep our money and retirement accounts with the Wall St banks after they defrauded people, because everyone else is. What difference does it make when there are so many people out there doing the same thing?

The difference is because it’s wrong.

So I returned my weights to the rack. No biggie, I know. And I’m only one person. But I’m part of a larger environment, and if I don’t think about that, and more importantly, if I don’t do something about it, then I am part of the problem. Other people may not do anything, but Erik’s words are still strong in my head:

“Yea, but we do.”