Wednesday, February 26, 2020

We Have to Go Back.

The world isn’t so big anymore.

It seems like the older I get, the more our world keeps growing smaller and smaller. Everybody is connected instantaneously. We can transmit messages and data with a single flick of the finger. New news becomes old news before you even have the chance to read it. We can shop online and receive packages within a day. We can spread memes and pick arguments and incite violence with just a few keystrokes. Careers can be made, and careers can be ended, all with the click of a mouse. Privacy is antiquated. Everything is fair game in this brave new world. Survival is as easy as resting in bed all day and not doing anything. Nothing is sacred.

And yet, I don’t feel any bigger than I did before. If anything, I feel smaller too.

I couldn’t begin to tell you just how often I repeat this phrase in my head:

“We have to go back.”

Keen television viewers might remember from which program that line originates – Lost.

(If you’re planning on watching Lost, stop reading now. I’m about to discuss a major plot point of the program. Come back when you’ve watched it.)

The classic third season finale of the show (Through the Looking Glass, 2007) gave viewers a startling twist-ending; Jack, Kate, and a few other castaways astonishingly escaped the island. And yet, reintegrating into society has ruined Jack. He can’t function without alcohol and oxycodone. His mental state is rapidly deteriorating. Jack has grown suicidal; he rides airplanes hoping they’ll crash and even tries to jump off a bridge. He finally manages to meet with Kate again, and expresses what he finally accepts as the only solution.

“We have to go back.”

Truth be told, this article isn’t really about Lost. And yet, my assessment of Lost has grown in favor over time. I now see the show as an allegory for what ails us as human beings. Collectively, we’re awfully sick. Life has become far too easy. We don’t face any challenges in our daily lives. Food is plentiful and there’s always a place for us to rest our head. Our meals come prepackaged in nice, neat boxes. There are no tigers for us to outrun, nor stampeding buffalo to dodge. We can float through life carelessly and still manage to cross the finish line. Work is defined by how many words we can type, or how many video games we can stream, or how we can best monetize our online videos. There are no crops to plant, nor trees to chop. Our cars are even starting to drive themselves. Objectivity has been rendered moot. The concepts of family and gender and even individuality are starting to weaken. The walls of independence are crumbling all around us. We can completely and totally disconnect from the world, and everything will be alright.

My friends, this isn’t healthy for us. We’re dying.

The enigmatic island in Lost is a symbol of where we came from as a species. We were once helpless beings trapped in a vast wilderness, with mysteries and dangers lurking around every corner. If you wanted to feed yourself and your family, you had to plant a field or hunt game. There were other factions of human beings, just like yourself, that also had to claw their way through life. You might even have to go to war with them for limited resources from time to time! Only the wisest and most self-sufficient survivors would rise to the top of the food chain. Your level of effort directly correlated to your level of accomplishment. Existence was ripe with adventure and excitement because every day was a gamble.

Our world was once oh so very big… and we were very, very small.

When Jack says, “We have to go back,” what he’s implying is that the modern world holds nothing for him anymore. The life he lived on the island was a sincere and authentic life; he felt like he had purpose once again. The island was a microcosm where a person could achieve great triumph, but only if they worked hard enough for it. It was undoubtedly a tough life, but also as real as it could possibly get. The contemporary world was driving Jack insane because it was too easy. He’d had a taste of what honest living was like… and he would do anything to get it back.

When I consider the weight of what “We have to go back" means, I look at it as a metaphor. I’m not saying we must return to a rudimentary society that lives in the forest and scavenges for rats and berries. What I am saying is that we need to make the world feel ‘big’ again. There should be routine challenges that we face on the regular. Adversity is good for the soul; it makes us stronger. It shouldn’t be so easy to share knowledge or spread news. We should have to invest some degree of effort to survive. At least some of our food ought to come from the garden, from fishing, or from hunting game. Ultimately, curing what ails us doesn’t come from a multi-national pharmaceutical conglomerate in the shape of a tiny little pill; it comes from within.

We have to go back… but we won’t.

In terms of societal grandeur, I can safely say that we’ve peaked. I view an extremely specific moment in time as the clarion call for our civilization’s downturn – the introduction of the first widely celebrated smart phone device. Apple unveiled the iPhone on June 29, 2007 to much cultural acclaim and anticipation. It’s an odd coincidence that the iPhone’s unveiling happened just thirty-six days after Through the Looking Glass first aired. The iPhone epitomizes all that we’ve lost in the progression towards a ‘connected’ society. This moment is the tip-top of the proverbial mountain, and we’ve been falling downhill ever since.

More than likely, you’re reading this article on a smart phone. Most internet usage now flows through our little black screens that fit tidily in our pockets. Traditional desktop computers are declining in popularity. Using the internet or employing a computer to complete a task is no longer a purposeful decision that requires focus. The smart phone simply ‘solves’ all our problems; it’s our companion and cohort. We’ve aggregated the entire breadth of human existence into a little metal box that weighs less than a pound. This perpetual cascading downhill isn’t something that’s going to stop. I don’t have enough faith in humanity to believe that we can come back from this plunge. Most people are weak and timid. At this point, It’s only a matter of time.

I can only question as to when we’ll hit bottom and who’ll be left to witness the end.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

The Specter at Our Door.

While sitting in my office today, a thought occurred to me.

It’s the year 2020…
  • A lethal bio-weapon is plaguing mankind thanks to the Chinese government.
  • Men can be women and women can be men.
  • Mega-corporations are actively spying on us through our phones.
  • Governments around the globe are cracking down on free speech and policing our thoughts.
  • A sizable portion of the American populace wants to institute communism.
  • We’re now eating simulated meat products.
  • Being a proud patriot now makes you a bigot.
  • The news media are the last people you want to trust for factual news.
  • We can talk to our dead relatives in virtual reality.
  • Most Americans are overweight or obese.
  • Politicians are openly buying votes.
  • Post-modernism has rendered objectivity obsolete.
  • We don’t have flying cars, matter transporters, or hyperspace drives.
  • Men are competing with women in athletic competitions and utterly destroying them.
  • Deep-fake technology can recreate any person ever on video, dead or alive, and you can’t tell the difference.
What the hell happened to us?

You would think that we’d be much farther along in our advancement as a species. Instead, we’re collectively staring down the barrel of a shotgun and about to blow our brains out.

The Specter is at our door. Knock… knock… knock… He wants in. He knows we’re about to end it all. Collapse is imminent. We’re preparing to take the big sleep.

How can we ever hope to come back from this dystopian nightmare?

It would be mighty egotistical of me to claim to have all the answers. I don’t believe anyone does. Walking to the proverbial edge of this societal cliff wasn’t done in a day. We’ve been stepping closer and closer to the edge for decades. A step here; a step there. It’s been a gradual state of decay, one mistake at a time. You can’t notice it in the short term; it’s too incremental. When you have decades of life experience, the changes become more noticeable though. We lost ourselves along the way. We gave too much ground to the dissidents, the degenerates, and the detractors.

We stopped having the courage to say “no” when we needed to put our foot down.

If we’re going to turn the Specter away, we must take measures to right the ship. Correcting the missteps we made along the way starts with acknowledgement. If we can’t recognize that we’ve screwed up, then we can’t begin to remedy anything. I believe that’s where we start – with the objective assessment of the damage done in our own lives. I would ask each of us to earnestly consider this topic, then ponder where to go from there. The only way off the edge is for each of us to start stepping in the opposite direction.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Why Promptly Responding to Messages Matters.

When it comes to effective communication, there are few things more important than responding to people. Whether between family, friends, or co-workers, answering an email or written message is a matter of common decency. Being prompt in your response is especially crucial. Timely replies reflect a certain implied measure of respect and responsibility. When you fail to reply to a message, you do more than just ignore any potential questions or concerns. A lack of response indicates an absence of reverence.

If someone sends you an email or message, then write them back in a reasonable amount of time. Even if your answer is “I don’t know,” send it anyway. At least the other party knows that you’re at least thinking about the topic at hand.

Let me be clear – missing one message occasionally can be chalked up to human error. Sometimes messages get lost in the shuffle. Emails can be mistakenly filtered into a spam folder, never to be seen. Accidents do indeed happen. What I’m referencing is an unambiguous pattern of avoidance.

When people in positions of workplace leadership fail to respond to their employees, they create a bubble around themselves. The more they ignore their subordinates, the thicker that bubble becomes. Eventually, a culture of mistrust develops, with the subordinates not believing in their leader. Channels of respect break down. Employees grow nihilistic, having little incentive to perform their jobs with a high degree of quality. The mechanism that keeps an organization operating starts to collapse. Effective leadership means listening and responding to your employees. The success of an organization begins and ends with the right people leading the way.

Can an organization survive with a wishy-washy, flakey, unresponsive leader? If it’s large enough, then absolutely. The nature of bureaucracy serves the well-being of a poorly led company because it insulates the internal faults from becoming too influential. Such a company will not thrive, though.

Here’s the takeaway from all of this. Respond in a timely fashion to the messages you receive. You’re only hurting yourself by not doing so.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Student Loan Debt and Personal Responsibility.

We see a fair amount of discussion in the news as of late concerning federal student loan debt. Justifiably, loans taken out for college educations are a monstrous portion of the outstanding debt presently owed by Americans. I can see why many politicians claim that they’ll work to erase lingering college loans for voters. It sounds enticing to say that college debt can be magically deleted with the wave of Uncle Sam’s hand. Let’s look at the numbers as of 2018:
  • Total federal student loan borrowers: 43 Million People
  • Total outstanding federal student loan debt: $1.4 Trillion
  • Average amount currently owed by a federal student loan borrower: $47,671
  • Borrowers actively repaying their loan: 18.6 Million (43%)
  • Total number of federal student loan borrowers in some form of default: 11.3 Million (26%)
Let those numbers gestate in your brain for a moment so that you can fully understand their sheer size. The current amount owed in federal student loans is $1,400,000,000,000.00. Wrap your head around that number. It’s a number so large that the human mind can’t fully visualize it. Of the total US population, presently 327 Million citizens, 13% of them possess forty-seven thousand dollars of student loan debt each.

As you can see, the federal student loan debt crisis is frightening. This doesn’t even consider the number of private student loans, nor loans taken against personal lines of credit. It’s a gargantuan figure, not one to soon be erased. And you know what?

It’s your own fault.

I can’t muster even an ounce of pity for someone with student loan debt.

Taking out a loan for college is a personal choice. Just like buying a car, or mortgaging a house, or picking a dog at the local animal shelter – getting a student loan is your responsibility. You made that decision to borrow an average of forty-seven thousand dollars. You have neglected to repay that loan. You have chosen to default on the credit extended to you, an amount fully funded by your fellow Americans’ tax dollars.

I can’t state this any more plainly. Your student loan debt is your personal responsibility to repay.

When I hear a politician promise to erase the student loan debt of voters, what I really hear them saying is “I want to buy your vote.” Such promises are cheap, hollow, and desperately short-sighted. Carry this process to its logical conclusion. What happens if someone’s federal student loan debt is erased? Well, that debt doesn’t just disappear; the borrower’s responsibility to repay their loan has simply been forgiven. The money they borrowed is still outstanding to the US Treasury. If the buyer doesn’t repay it, then the federal government takes a loss on the loan.

Can you imagine what would happen if the Federal Government took a $1.4 Trillion loss? That’s $1.4 Trillion flushed down the drain, with no hope of that money ever being collected. It’s a loan fully funded by federal tax dollars that’s simply pissed away, never to be seen again.

What would happen if you simply failed to repay your auto loan? How about your mortgage? You know precisely what would happen. Your automobile would be repossessed, and your home would be foreclosed upon by your lender. Debt doesn’t just go away. Monies owed are always owed, up to the point that they have been paid in full and satisfied. If a politician promises to erase student debt, then they’re completely ignoring the damage that would do to our country. It’s gross negligence of the highest caliber.

The federal student loan crisis is the next fiscal bubble waiting to pop. Consider what the mortgage crisis did to our economy in 2008-2009. The massive amount of mortgage lending debt, coupled with the reckless gambling undertaken by the financial sector, sent our economy into a tailspin the likes of which we’ve never seen before. Ultimately, the US Treasury spent $439 Billion salvaging the banking and auto industries from certain collapse. Thankfully, the treasury’s efforts to assist the economy eventually resulted in a net profit of $3 Billion. Do you understand how scary the federal student loan crisis is in comparison to the 2008 financial crisis? The erasure of merely half of the outstanding federal student loan debt, with no hope of it ever being repaid, would make the 2008 economic downturn look like a field trip to Disneyland. The student loan bubble will eventually pop, and we’re collectively in for a rude awakening when it does. It's just a matter of time.

Beyond the numbers, the repayment of federal student loan debt is a reflection of individual accountability. When you sign a promissory note to repay a student loan, you’re wagering your personal reputation against your ability to securely repay the American People. If your obligation to repay what you promised is eliminated, then what good is your reputation? Your word would be worthless. Anything you further promised would be as feckless as the lies spoken by politicians to buy your vote. Your name, your reputation; they mean something in this world. You not only owe it to your fellow Americans to repay your debt to them, but you also owe it to yourself to be an honorable human being. At the end of the day, all you have is your good name. Consider the millions of Americans that have repaid their student loan debt. They worked tirelessly to satisfy their loans and followed through on their promises. How do you think those people would feel if the borrowers whom neglected to repay their debt got a proverbial 'Get Out of Jail Free' card? The subsequent discord that would erupt would not be repairable, I suspect. Even worse, what of the politicians that promise to forgive student loan debt -- will they be repaying all of the trustworthy individuals that previously satisfied their loans? What's to be said of the decent American? Not a lot, apparently.

You have to ask yourself the follow question.

Do you want to be remembered as a patriot… or as a phony?

Thursday, February 13, 2020

The Importance of Writing Letters.

I’ll set the scene…

Pressing against your front door, you step into the foggy, overcast glow of a misty day. The birds are calling; the trees drip with water. A breeze brushes against your face, sending the hair on the back of your neck into a fervor. Minuscule droplets of rain grace the lids of your eyes. Briskly, you dart down your porch steps and strut along your driveway. Reaching the end, you drop the flap of your mailbox with conviction and reach inside. The anticipation is nearly unbearable. Your fingertips can feel the rough organic surface of a letter. Pulling it out, you close your eyes for just a moment. Where did it come from? Who wrote it? You open your eyes…

Could you feel that? That’s what millions of people experienced every day before the advent of mobile phones, the internet, and social media. The ardor of receiving a letter in the mail from a friend or loved one was the highlight of the day for many. It kept people together, despite the countless miles that may separate them physically. Much less, a letter represented the act of willing thoughts and feelings into existence. What once resided solely in the mind of the writer now had life; a letter was a tangible embodiment of sentiment.

I fear we’ve lost that crucial connection of sentiment in the Twenty-First Century. Never have people been more connected, but also more alone.

The older I get, the more I miss getting letters, cards, and postcards from friends, family, and pen pals. When I was a teenager, receiving mail seemed like second nature; it was a facet of life that I took for granted. Even receiving magazines in the post was something to get excited over.

Magazines… remember those? Nintendo Power and Wizard, I weep for both of you.

Barreling towards my forties, I miss what I once so carelessly took for granted. When I do receive a card or letter, it genuinely warms my heart. Thanks to the select few of you that still send me things in the mail; you know who you are.

Letters embody the purposeful communion of love and friendship between people. The effort to write down your ideas, address an envelope, purchase a stamp, and place the letter in a mailbox certainly isn’t a difficult task. And yet, that uncomplicated journey is a task with meaning. It takes motivation. Nowadays, one person can send another person a text message while using the bathroom, giving no further thought to the sheer magnitude of what they just accomplished. We can wondrously tweet and instant message and snap and kik and blow up our BFF’s Instagram simultaneously in the same time it takes to put on our shoes.

I feel disgusting for that last sentence; please forgive me for momentarily talking like a modern teenager.

Writing letters teaches us patience, sincerity, and gratitude. It humbles our sense of self in an ever-expanding world of technology. To think, words that could require months to arrive, as recently as a mere thirty years ago, can now be shared in an instant. By increasing the quantity of words that we share, have we not lessened their quality? A letter carries weight by sheer necessity, projecting the most important and heartfelt invocations of humanity itself.

Modern technology is fantastic. Without it, I wouldn’t be able to reach you with this very article. That being said, the use of technology also carries a measure of personal responsibility with it. As a collective society, we’ve lost a part of our identity to technology – our ability to project sincere feelings, to create bonds, to maintain relationships. We’ve practically become disposable to each other, much in the same way that we disregard the deluge of instantaneous dispatches that flood our cell phones, timelines, and feeds. Letters circumvent this pitfall by forcing us to take each other with earnest regard. As such, I recommend sending pieces of handwritten mail to your friends and family whenever possible. Not only is it a delight for the receiver, but it’s also a healthy alternative to throw-away cables sent over the internet. Writing truly is terrific for your spirit.

I know I’m fighting a losing battle here, but that doesn’t mean we can’t at least try to turn this ship around. When I send someone a piece of snail mail, I’m trying to establish a connection. Sometimes it works out, but more often than not it doesn’t. Ultimately, I’m left asking myself…

What will be left to salvage of our civilization when the majority of our conversations carry such negligible significance?

If you would like to exchange mail with me (and I would hope you would), then let me know in the comment section below.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

In Defense of the American Nuclear Family.

I recently read an article in the latest issue of The Atlantic entitled ‘The Nuclear Family Was a Mistake’ that left me feeling deeply incensed. The author describes how the ideal of an American Nuclear Family is a false premise predicated upon classism, racism, and American Exceptionalism. Essentially, having a father and mother in the same home with their children is not the default; normal, healthy families are a blended mix of single parents, extended family, and potentially a revolving door of multiple partners that come in and out of a child’s life. A nuclear family is unhealthy because it provides a child with a limited set of adults from which wisdom can be drawn. As such, only wealthy White people have nuclear families because it is affordable to them.

I’d love to see a precise definition of what makes someone white, but I digress.

To quote the author of the article, David Brooks:
“Conservatives have nothing to say to the kid whose dad has split, whose mom has had three other kids with different dads; “go live in a nuclear family” is really not relevant advice. If only a minority of households are traditional nuclear families, that means the majority are something else: single parents, never-married parents, blended families, grandparent-headed families, serial partnerships, and so on. Conservative ideas have not caught up with this reality.”
Therein exists the fault in the author’s assertion, though. He expects ideals and principles to follow degenerate behavior, thereby reinforcing and justifying the degeneracy. It’s essentially the equivalent of sticking your finger in a light socket and proclaiming, “Getting electrocuted is normal, everybody is doing it. If you’re not doing it, then you’re the weirdo!”

Leftist ideologues like Mr. Brooks revel in explaining away their harmful values as realistic and suited to the norms of modern society. Many families don’t have both parents in the home and that’s how it should be, as Mr. Brooks would lead you to believe. It’s not normal for children to have a mother and a father, so it must not be correct. More and more families are lacking one of the parents in the home, so that means it’s okay… right? The defamation of the nuclear family is an intellectual shrug; a relinquishment of accountability in the face of mounting societal collapse.

That’s the funny thing about objective truth, though; it remains true whether you believe it or not.

Objectively, children do better when they have their father and mother living together in the same home. Their chances of graduating high school and going on to earning a higher education spike dramatically. Accordingly, their ability to break through the poverty barrier and become self-sufficient adults also sharply rises. Single parents earn less and are less likely to have finished high school; they’re also more likely to live in poverty. Even worse, most single-parent homes are led by the mother. An absent father has a frighteningly negative impact upon a child. Fathers imbue a certain measure of masculine knowledge that both sons and daughters need to become independent, well-rounded adults. This isn’t to say that women can’t teach children valuable life lessons; they absolutely can and do. The difference is that fathers and mothers teach different lessons that neither can completely encompass alone. Without one parent, the other is left to manage the best way they can; invariably, some masculine or feminine standards and lessons are missed.

Here’s the point that I want to make – just because someone else is screwing up, that doesn’t mean you should purposefully screw up too. Don’t let the behavior of others justify your abandonment of principles and decency. Instead of having children with multiple partners and being a single parent, act responsibly and be more selective of your sexual partners. I’m not even bringing religion into this argument, either; this is far more rudimentary than lofty questions related to God, the afterlife, and spiritual morality. This is a question of common sense. Do you want your potential children to live with their father and mother? You absolutely should. Demonizing the ideal of a nuclear family doesn’t miraculously make the anti-nuclear family warranted. The nuclear family living next door isn’t to blame for your lack of personal responsibility.

I can’t help but mordantly chuckle at the sadness of this whole situation. Honestly, the lack of personal responsibility is a pervasive blight upon all corners of the American landscape; that’s a whole other book-sized can of worms I could write about.

I should also be clear -- extended family is a wonderful thing. I want every child to know and learn from their grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and so forth. The nuclear family should be at the core of a child’s existence, though; that’s a habitual fact which must be applied whenever and however possible.

As I was researching data for this article, it became glaringly apparent that the leftists at The Atlantic aren’t the only deceitful maligners pushing this anti-nuclear family agenda. All my Google web searches produced alarming headlines that took priority in the results provided.
  • Do children in two-parent families do better?
  • The myth of the nuclear family.
  • Single moms get it done!
  • Minorities should blame Whites for their dad’s being locked up.
Regrettably, this is an active agenda to divide the American populace and deconstruct the traditional family unit. Why? Because the globalist puppeteers wielding left-leaning media outlets like sabers want to bring down America. How do you do that? By imploding where the American spirit is born and cultivated – within the home. The quickest way to defeat our remarkable republic is to smother the proverbial hearth of the American family. Once the family is made obsolete, then the individual can be further eroded, too. Before long, you wind up with a dystopian society that values the state over the individual.

In essence, the reinforcement of the American Nuclear Family is a defense of liberty itself.