Just got forwarded this video by my mother, apparently it went online in 2007. http://www.youtube.com/embed/42E2fAWM6rA
Memes: Time with family vs. time with work; money vs. happiness (Themes very common around Christmas time!)
This video inspired me today with its brilliance because it encapsulates the human condition and patterns of adaptation. We have certainly reached a tipping point in our culture where institutions we have created are failing, but is the answer really to go into reverse? Let’s examine the institutional (human idea) “failures” and their dynamics. I think you’ll see that in most cases, going forward will not mean exactly going backward (as romantic as this would be)!:
1. Nuclear Families: Divorces, More single-parent homes (due in part to racist drug wars), more acceptance of Non-Traditional Families. Children moving farther away, scattering across the globe AND/OR moving back in with parents due to an inability to survive in a more expensive and/or chaotic world. Adults waiting longer to have children. Having fewer children later. More women in college than men, role reversals. Egg and sperm donations.
-The notion of nuclear families seems to be a throwback from two generations ago (our grandparents). Since we tend to want to do the opposite of what our parents did (because of course they are blamed for our unhappiness as children) we probably tend to escape what didn’t work from our parent’s generation by going back to the grandparent’s generation for answers. However, we are finding now that what worked for our grandparents won’t work for us in today’s more mobile and uncertain world, and it is frustrating. We are no longer settling down on farms in the west with our large families, hunting and fishing. We are jumping at the national and international opportunities as they flash in front of us, and relating more electronically.There is less actual physical connection between loved ones, and our biology hasn’t caught up to that yet. It may be manifesting in sex addictions and violence, sadness from expectations of a marriage and family not matching up to the reality of today’s cultural/resource demands.
2. Banks: Our bankers over-leveraged themselves by creating illusion/mystery products they could not explain/understand/justify, causing the mortgage/housing/lending industry to collapse. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The world’s major banks dominate international currency exchange, therefore we must maintain relationships with them unless we want to usurp their power to create a national public bank. Mortgage holders got the short end of this stick because we do not have the resources or willpower for a large-scale failure and national bank takeover. We are simply unprepared to takeover should the banks fail us, much like Egyptians were unprepared with a new leader after toppling the old. People must adapt to this new economy by better understanding their protections when entering contracts with banks. This may drive more self-reliance temporarily, but eventually large funds will have to be borrowed for large projects from either a lower-interest large-scale public collaboration (credit unions are on the rise) or will again fall to the easier route of the banks, who arguably have a monopoly collectively until lending power among the people rises to those levels.
3. Investments: Investment managers overleveraged their bets and used resources they didn’t have to produce short-term gains; costing many people their retirement savings and sending themselves into jail/suicide. Investing is complex. People need to beware of smoke and mirrors. The competitive nature of investing makes transparency difficult. People then need to accept that the lower the transparency, the greater the risk, and assign only risk-tolerant assets to non-transparent investments that promise great return.
4. Environment: We collectively have made a lot of hasty environmental assumptions before putting thousands of new chemically-engineered products onto the market to grow crops, make food last longer, sanitize, and to enhance our appearance, get to work faster, work harder, sleep less, and then to suffer less with our illness(es). As a result, our planet’s air, water, and fatty tissues of humans and animals contain toxic chemicals whose inflammation effects in our very own internal ecosystems (the human body’s microbiome) are just starting to be understood. The more chemicals we consume, the more oblivious and avoidant we seem to become to tackling impending catastrophic climate change. And as a side-note, the fatter we become, the more propensity we have toward being untruthful (biochemically). Fat gives off estrogen, and men given doses of testosterone in a recent study were less likely to lie – i.e., more likely to admit to the reality of a situation. I wouldn’t listen to climate/environment advice from anyone who is seriously overweight. Prejudice or science? hmmm….
5. Money: We had a floodgate of money open up to us in the 90s with easy access to credit cards. We were all able to make short-term impulse buys without having to plan for long-term consequences, and this financially ruined many many families. We did not trust our own ability to pull money toward ourselves so we borrowed it from those we thought had the money, giving our power over to them. When one late payment was made, the once affordable debt became totally unaffordable.
“A discussion of consumer debt must acknowledge, however, that consumers ultimately make the decision about whether to apply for credit and how much to borrow.”
This is a fascinating statement from the Federal Reserve, basically putting all the responsibility on citizens for their financial choices. It makes you wonder how much choice people really do have, however, when minimum wage hasn’t risen in 40 years, but I digress.
Likely due to the rapid evolution of technology and information dissemination, there is more uncertainty in what products and services people need. This leads to unstable job markets. We are no longer living in an era where dad goes to work from 9-5 at the same manufacturing plant for 25 years. We are definitely not living in our grandparent’s world where we worked on the farm from 5am to 9pm, but we want to act like it. Our working hours are long, and are usually piece-meal from several part-time jobs, or we experience longer periods of unemployment/job-seeking between jobs. The point is, there is more chaos and uncertainty. It makes sense that people would want to stabilize this by buffering the instability with credit card use. Perhaps we ought to legislate around this so as to give our citizens a bit more buffer/mental relief while coping with a new volatile economy which shows no signs of stabilizing.
6. College: We allowed ourselves to think that the ivy league universities only accepted the best and the brightest, and they charged lots of money which encouraged that myth in a feedback loop. Now the bottom is dropping out of the universities – we are at a tipping point where the government keeps pulling money out, leaving the burden to families, so only the wealthy or those willing to take on the enormous debt burden of college for the illusion of connections and job security (which they won’t get because they are too busy working 3 jobs during college to keep the loans at bay to make the connections necessary to get a good job). And meanwhile, education is becoming free on the internet to anyone that wants it. Colleges as institutions are slow to change and will be extinct before long should tuition costs continue on trend. Trends are toward mentorship, emphasizing relationships/social connections, entrepreneurship and job creation. Those people able to quickly mobilize money and people around new information & technologies will win in the new rat race.
7. Goods and Services: Products are designed for one-time use. The throwaway products can generate the most money the quickest. New technologies are always in demand. The trick to this game is not to run out of resources or create too many toxic by-products along the way. Critical-resource conservation and life-cycle legislation should be priorities.
8. Get Rick Quick Schemes: Many MLM companies shot up from the 1980’s to the early 2000’s. An MLM creates an illusion of wealth which draws people in then steals their wealth leaving them more bankrupt. Similar refinancing cons affected people in the housing market who were over-leveraged but somehow managed to own very expensive/valuable properties. They used their homes as leverage for riches that were just out of reach. In a more chaotic world, people are more apt to throw their hands up in the air to try to snag anything that looks like a golden ring. And why not? They have time since they do not have steady work, and most buy-ins are affordable. But these can be giant wastes of time, so business opportunities need to be evaluated on actual value provided to society. If an idea doesn’t totally light your fire like it’s the best thing you’ve heard lately, you probably shouldn’t pursue it just for the promised golden ring.
“OUR CULTURE HAS NOT PREPARED US FOR THE RATE OF CHANGE WE WOULD SEE IN OUR LIFETIME.” My roommate the other day.
We are living in an information age. Hearing too many other perspectives and trying to assimilate them all throws off your sense of balance, sense of judgement, and ability to make decisions. For example, if you have a desire to do something, and now have 500 different opinions on Google for how to do it, you are simply not equipped with the time to analyze 500 different options. You must trust an expert, or you must make an emotional decision and have faith that your decision was the best you could do at the time. And you are more likely to fail. Failure is really hard on the human psyche. Those that can get up and dust themselves off and try again eventually win. Those whose failures put them into a bind they can’t find a way out of are the most pitied.
It’s kind of like speculating in the stock or futures markets. They say any market with more than about 30% speculators will become chaotic and subject to short-term rather than long-term thinking: emotion/mob-mentality vs. stability/logically-calculated changes. Volatility/price swings will then become the norm.
When you are overloaded with “information” i.e., “perspectives”, as the stock market is (unpredictable), your brain becomes overloaded. Brains are only capable of binary logic. Distilling down multiple perspectives into the right binary question then becomes a valuable skill.
I find it interesting that this parallels what is happening with climate change. We are turning up the heat in the atmosphere, and climate starts swinging between extremes.
The earth goes through cycles of stability and volatility. It may just be the nature of life itself. It is not the stable planet, stable home-base we like to think of it as. The core itself is always cooling, burping and releasing its lava/heat/CO2 into our atmosphere. The plates are always shifting a bit, groaning under the weight of the oceans/tides and the molten crust’s liquid rhythms.
As below, so above. The sun against the tilt of the earth’s axis, warms only the continents and oceans it reaches, which are themselves drifting and changing levels and densities. The moon’s orbit causes disturbances. The sun itself experiences flareups, bursts, etc. of an extremely volatile nature–thankfully its distance from us mutes some of these disturbances.
Even our solar system is subject to the disturbing interactive forces of the entire milky way galaxy as we make our relatively slow revolution around its center.
Our use of technology has allowed us to connect to one another and experience one another’s perspectives. It is confusing, it is brilliant, it is beautiful, it is paralyzing, it is chaotic, it is enlightening. And it is the world we must adapt to, together.