When will the revolution revolve?

It’s scary to live today. There’s a resistance to change, and that resistance is showing up in violent ways. Yet, why are we now so change adverse? The industrial revolution was nearly three hundred years ago. Since that time, it’s been non-stop change. The changes that branched out from that revolution are: the industrial mindset and the alternative mindset.

In essence, what you have us the established – the status quo. And then you have the alternative. Thinkers, creatives, revolutionaries, heretics, those that come along and bring the most disruptive tools they can: ideas. And once an idea is hatched, and if it firmly takes hold, it becomes the new status quo. Perhaps the idea originators are satisfied with that. Perhaps they stop generating original ideas. But someone won’t, that much is certain. Someone won’t settle. Someone will not abide the status quo. For every status quo, there is someone who has an alternative idea.

Generally, and I’d argue that it’s a universal truism, though I’m open to the fact that it may not be, that looking to adhere to a past status quo, once it has been replaced, will not bring with it any positive outcome. Adherents to past systems are often the most dangerous, and not in the form of ideation. Rather, they cling unflinchingly to a system already shown to be obsolete. I’m thinking of course of racism, and the violence and rhetoric of the past week.

Clinging to past perceptions and prejudices is no way to inhabit a current moment. Even with what the status quo is now, it is a time of unrest. Movements are springing up, the products of ideas, with the hopes of unifying. Detractors as well, both with the desire to push ahead, and forge new ground, or with the hope to reinstate old patterns – those former glories.

Occasionally it’s hard to tell the difference. Good salesmen will pitch you what seems like an idea – maybe even a good one. But these flim-flam men and women are just pitching rehashed examples of obsolete former glories. It’s not new. It hasn’t been new for some time.

We understand more about our deficiencies when we’re able to look back. We know that black, white, brown and yellow are equals, not subject to class division, segregation or subjugation. We know that women and men are equals and deserve equitable pay and work opportunities. We know that diversity creates more robust team dynamics, leading to better ideas, and that exposure to arts is as important to developing a young brain as is learning the fundamentals of reading, writing, math and science. We know all these things, and yet our application of this knowledge still lacks universal acceptance.

Old ways are hard to break. Status quo is the norm, and that gets easily hard-wired. Easier to stick to the path than forge a new one. Thankfully, there have always been those uncomfortable with the status quo. And we now live in a time when it’s easier than ever before to forge new territory.

“The new leverage available to everyone means that the status quo is more threatened than ever, and each employee now has the responsibility to change the rules before someone else does. This isn’t about working your way up to the top, or following the rules, and then starting down the path of changing your world. Instead, these innovations are examples of leadership. About one heretic, someone with a vision, who understood the leverage available, who went ahead and changed things.”

-Seth Godin, Tribes

And after all that, I can’t help think of that last speech in The American President. If you haven’t seen it, give it a watch.

Can’t Sleep vol 3

I muse a lot while laying in bed at the end of the day. I'm having trouble sleeping, and I don't know why. I get up early enough. I'll be doing yoga in the morning. I have a pretty full day tomorrow, actually.

I'm thinking about theatre. It's been nearly a year since I was last on stage, and I've just accepted a role in a production of Annie, Get Your Gun. I'm also thinking about what I've been doing with my life these last eighteen months. Plenty of reading, loads of introspection, not much tangible to show. I'm like one of those fresh-out-of-college kids, full of ideas, but no clue on how to make a life for themselves.

Only, I'm about ten years older than most of them.

Trying to plan out the next stages of life.

Where do you want to be in five years, Michael?

Hell, I don't really know where I want to be tomorrow. But I wouldn't mind being well-rested.

 

Expectations

Why do we elect who we elect to lead us? How do we elect them? What is it about the representative democracy that makes our elections so interesting?

Take a look at the 2016 presidential elections. While Hillary Clinton won the popular vote (65.8M to Trump’s 62.9M), Donald Trump won the election by securing 306 of the 538 electoral votes. So though a majority of Americans voted for someone else, Donald Trump became this country’s 45th president.

The electoral college system has been hotly contested before, especially in the wake of 2000 election, where George W. Bush defeated Al Gore in a narrow victory.

But the electoral college/popular vote debate was also on display following the 1876 election, in which Rutherford B. Hayes defeated Samuel J. Tilden over a matter of twenty contested electoral votes; and also in 1888, when Benjamin Harrison won over Grover Cleveland.

The 1824 election proved interesting as well, with it marking the “final collapse of the Republican-Federalist political framework.” (http://www.ushistory.org/us/23d.asp) Andrew Jackson won the electoral vote, ninety-nine to John Quincy Adams’s eighty-four. But Jackson’s votes only amounted to 43% of the electoral college, and did not secure him the presidency.

It was then that the choice fell to the House of Representatives, under the Twelfth Amendment. In what was decried by Jacksonian supporters, the corrupt bargain gave Adams the presidency, and he in turn nominated House Speaker Henry Clay as Secretary of State.

If we, in a majority vote, elect someone who then isn’t the winner, where does the burden lay? With the system? With the candidates? With the voters?

Maybe we’ll see a change to the system in the coming years. Maybe it’s time.

Be truly whole

Wholeness is acquired from within. It cannot be attained through someone else. Neither can one remain whole when giving in an unhealthy way, as in obsessive love, in that too much of one’s self is surrendered.

As one cannot be made whole by another, so too can one not make another whole. In such attempts vital energy is lost, and even identity, or self, can be harmed.

Being whole can manifest itself in many forms. Spiritual peace or understanding. A true contentment, or satisfaction.

It is a common misunderstanding that contentment is a corollary of settling. Yet, settling by definition implies that some other outcome was desired, but relinquished because it was either too difficult or the settler was too lazy to pursue that outcome.

On the same token as settling is despair. It is a relinquishment of self through the inability to let go of a desired outcome. When in the midst of despair, no outcome seems satisfactory, except for the clung-to ideal that has slipped from grasp.

This has a sense of Buddhism to it, or Taoism. The quote that has guided my thoughts on this is, “Be truly whole and all things will come to you.” It is attributed to the Tao Te Ching, and I leave you with the thought:

“Nay, if you have really attained wholeness, everything will flock to you.”

-Lao Tzu, Tao Teh Ching, Passage 22 (John C.H. Wu Translation)

A most important moment

The vast majority of us will never be president. We’ll never be movie stars. We’ll never run Fortune 500 companies, or invent technological advances so profound that they shape human achievement for decades to come.

The vast majority will not become published authors, or produced playwrights. Our canvases or art installations will not be shown in national galleries or private collections. Our musical compositions will not be performed by symphonic orchestras, or sung by operatic professionals.

The truth is, these heights to which we all, at some level, aspire to will be far beyond our reach. However, at one point we’ll look back and see the most important moment in our life. And though it may not hold the immense gravitas of moments in the public arena viewed by millions, it will have been a defining moment in our lives. One that we’ll (hopefully) look back on proudly.

What is that most important moment? Has it happened yet? You already have one, though something more important may come along. Are you proud of that moment? Or would you rather something else takes its place?

We are the heroes of our own stories. Make damn sure the climax is rewarding.

It’s the “W-Word”!!!

The W-Word? What in the world is that?

W-E-L-F-A-R-E

Welfare. Certainly many a number of opinions on it.

So, sometime over the last week I was playing cards. We usually play once or twice a week. At this game topics range from business affairs, the political landscape, entertainment; whatever happens to come up. There are some strong opinions expressed. Oftentimes there’s no small amount of agitation. And yet sometimes I get filled in on things I may have missed.

During this particular game, the discussion of President Trump’s war on welfare to work was brought up. I was admittedly not familiar with this aspect of his policy, so I started where I always start when it’s time to begin research: Google.

Basically, it comes down to the Trump Administration’s budget proposal, which shows significant cuts given to various welfare programs, and requirements proposed for recipients to either work or volunteer if they are able to do so. Well, that doesn’t sound so bad, does it?

But what is welfare?

definition (Oxford Collegiate Dictionary):
1wel•fare \ ‘wel-,fare\ n [ME, fr. the phrase wel faren to fare well] (14c) 1: the state of doing well esp. in respect to good fortune, happiness, well-being, or prosperity 2 a: aid in the form of money or necessities for those in need b: an agency or program through which such aid is distributed
2 welfare adj (1904) 1: of, relating to, or concerned with welfare and esp. with improvement of the welfare of disadvantaged social groups (~legislation) 2: receiving public welfare benefits (~families)

And that seems okay – caring about the well-being, happiness, fortunes, and prosperity of others.

Yet, anytime legislation is created to focus on the public good, there are going to be conceptions of winners and losers.

What of American policies in welfare?

Early welfare systems in America were based on the British “Poor Laws”: “These laws made a distinction between those who were unable to work due to their age or physical health and those who were able-bodied but unemployed. The former group was assisted with cash or alternative forms of help from the government. The latter group was given public service employment in workhouses.”

Changes were made throughout the 1800s, including a push to use caseworkers to evaluate claims. According to the Constitutional Rights Foundation, “During the Great Depression of the 1930s, local and state governments as well as private charities were overwhelmed by needy families seeking food, clothing, and shelter. In 1935, welfare for poor children and other dependent persons became a federal government responsibility, which it remained for 60 years.”

This “federal government responsibility,” known as the Social Security Act, was enacted to provide for the general welfare by establishing a system of Federal old-age benefits, and by enabling the several States to make more adequate provision for aged persons, blind persons, dependent and crippled children, maternal and child welfare, public health, and the administration of their unemployment compensation laws; to establish a Social Security Board; to raise revenue; and for other purposes.”

Welfare history continued to be made when in 1996 President Bill Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. Under the act, the federal government gives annual lump sums to the states to use to assist the poor. In turn the states must adhere to certain criteria to ensure that those receiving aid are being encouraged to move from welfare to work. Though some have criticized the program, many acknowledge it has been successful.

Which finally brings us into the current charged political climate. Under the Trump Administration’s budget proposal (introduced now nearly two months ago), the proposal was for the reduction of spending to welfare programs “from food stamps to tax credits and welfare payments by $274 billion over a decade, largely by tightening eligibility for these programs, according to administration officials.

According to Statistic Brain, who pulled stats from the US Dept. of Commerce, the number of Americans receiving welfare government (non-Medicaid) assistance was 67,891,000 in 2016. This breaks down into roughly:

  • 41 million people on SNAP
  • 10 million on unemployment
  • 7.5 million individuals living in a home that receives housing assistance
  • 4.3 million received TANF (during previous 12 month period / graphic below shows TANF from 1996-2010)
  • 4.5 million received some other type of assistance

 

families-receiving-welfare

This remains a hotly debated topic, with arguments on both sides. Each can give statistics to back their case, such as:

“Three quarters of households using SNAP contain children, seniors, or people with disabilities, said Elaine Waxman, a senior fellow in the Income and Benefits Policy Center at the Urban Institute. Without SNAP, the country would have had 3 to 4.5 million more people in poverty during the recession, she said.

or:

“In December 2014, in Maine, the local government chose not to renew its waiver of the Welfare to Work program. At the time, there were 13,332 people who were claiming Stamps and were not exempt from the program; by March, the number of claimants had dropped 80%! More than 9,000 people had decided (or coincidently happened) to either get a job or choose to not claim.

The thing is, I can find statistics from different research organizations, and the results appear contradictory. It’s all in how the information framed. If it comes down to a matter of policy, than the proposed welfare to work provisions seem okay. If it comes down to a consideration of citizens, maybe not so much. For me, I’ll always err on the side of helping those in need, even though there may be some who would take advantage of that.

“A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.”
Mahatma Gandhi

Disturbances

The phone rings. Who? Why? 

I look at the screen.

UNKNOWN

I wouldn’t have answered anyway.

They call too much.

UNKNOWN

Or otherwise.
In this darkness,
The glowing face of the phone is unwelcome.

In this silence,

The rat-a-tat-tat of some digital ring is unwelcome.

In my loneliness, 

The connection with someone else is unwelcome.

The phone rings again.

Who?

Why?