Looking for Someone to Blame…

Talk to the handWe can all understand a national angst around a number of life-altering issues, from our woeful economy & jobs outlook, to food that makes us sick and a growing number of crazed individuals who want to see all of us blown to bits.

And when we get scared, or angry, or feel out of control, we want to pinpoint the source of the problem – we want someone or some entity to blame.

Is it Congress?  Is it one political party or the other?  How about the media, issuing  inflammatory stories, whether ultimately true or not, to keep their market share from falling?

Or, is it that we as a nation, and we Boomers as the current leaders of it, have lost our “moral compass” – that our society as a whole is disintegrating, causing much of what’s wrong with our nation today – as we hear more and more often these days?  How about our own unwillingness to make tough sacrifices thus keeping ourselves reliant on extremely unstable parts of the world?

It’s really tough to resist the natural temptation to look everywhere else but in the mirror for the root cause of our problems.  But here’s the cold truth of our distresses:

  • A bad Congress continues to be bad only because we let them get away with it…and I don’t mean just keep voting ’em out…I mean we don’t hold them accountable when they’re in.  Admittedly that takes time…to write them…let them know consistently what you want them to do – but that is the pesky part of a “representative government”
  • Sensationalism in the press continues because it works…we watch/listen/read it
  • Political parties respond to their loyal and most extreme base because they’re the most vocal; moderates are the least, which is the majority of Americans
  • The disconnect that is now the norm in our communities (our lack of involvement), our spread-all-over-the-world families, or our use of technology more often than face-to-face, makes life a tad surreal, moving ever closer to an imitation of it; this may make life easier, but it doesn’t make it better…
  • Companies that do bad things rely on us forgetting about their bad behavior in short time…and we do.  The best example of this over the past year has been the toxic food that’s made it’s way into our homes as a result of agribusinesses’ unsanitary conditions (being humane and clean takes too much out of the profit-margin).  They also know that we simply do not use our consumer clout to send them a clear message of discontent – refusing to buy from companies with poor track records is a tad inconvenient (shopping elsewhere…keeping track) and they rely on us being too busy, or apathetic, to do so

As the song puts it so well:

I’m Starting With The Man In The Mirror
I’m Asking Him To Change His Ways
And No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place
Take A Look At Yourself, And Then Make A Change

Here’s the link: Sing along with Michael Jackson, and perhaps we’ll finally take seriously the powerful message of this song from so many years ago, that is even more relevant today.

NIMBY

  • Congress … they’re all crooks!  Except my representative…
  • Government entitlement programs need to be cut!  Except my Medicare/SS…
  • I’m totally against “pork-barrel” projects!  Except for the ones for my community (that keeps me voting for my legislator who “brought home the bacon”)
  • Bullying and drug use in the schools is becoming rampant…just not in my school, or by my kids (or kids they know…)
  • The people who got mortgages they knew they couldn’t afford need to be held responsible for that as part of fixing the housing problem…except in my case…
  • We need to move from our dependency on oil to cleaner and more renewable energy sources…except don’t ask me to pay a little more at the pump to make the move a reality

See it?  There’s a clear pattern of deflecting responsibility for what we know is wrong and needs to be changed….but not by “me”…by someone else.

And there lies the crux of our stagnation…our gridlock.  You see, Congress, your school board, and all other democratically elected bodies, are in fact a reflection of us, as it was meant to be.  When you look at them, and what they’re doing badly, or not doing at all, you are looking in the mirror.

Once we get that, we’ll get change for the better.

Restoring Honor…Boomer Style

This is an excerpt from a chapter of my soon to be released book Is That My Light at the End of the Tunnel? that speaks directly to what we Boomers can and must do to find our “lights” at the end of our “tunnels” – this one relating well to the notion of restoring what’s been lost:

Boomers, Unite!

Yeah, right….  We are about as single-minded on how to individually handle the important issues I’ve raised in our “tunnels” as are the Europeans on how to run their Union.

But, that said, there are some basic concepts which I believe the vast majority of us can comfortably get behind, and on which we can build our comeback.

These are the aspects of our Flower Power revolution (even without the LSD) that are a combination of common sense, common kindness, and the underpinnings of all the major world religions.  They are:

  • Living your beliefs while allowing others to live theirs (e.g. walk the talk…no finger pointing)
  • Being kind to our planet, and those less fortunate than ourselves
  • Actively rejecting any form of tyranny
  • Standing up against abuse and exploitation of other humans (which, according to Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Weisel, was the correct reason for invading Iraq), and other species
  • Having one martini a night to get us through all of this (just checking to see if you were paying attention…)
  • Finding government and corporate deceit unacceptable
  • Believing in the power of love, from being non-judgmental of others’ lives to eschewing meanness

So, when it comes down to it, here’s the “honor” we must restore right now, associated with grinding issues we’re facing at this moment, based on the above ideals – we’ve lost track of them, and with our great influence/power must ensure we find again:

  • As the most educated generation alive today, start using our great brains to learn and work with the facts, whether we like those facts or not;
  • Remember and reclaim what we believed in our youth: love conquering hate, & equality for all (thus our fight for women’s/civil rights, eliminating discrimination in housing & hiring, etc.); to abandon those society-altering-for-the-better ideals with our Muslim neighbors because of their radical minority (hey, Christians have the KKK & Neo-Nazis) is beneath us;
  • Another reclamation from our youth: refusing to accept the poor behavior of “the man” we so reviled back then…which, by the way, is now us…we became “the man” (we are the ones in charge of most big corporations, and governments) – we can and must rise up against our own generations’ misdeeds, greediness, & complete lack of interest in the greater good.
  • Although history debates the motivation for our society-bettering deeds back then…was it out of pessimism or optimism? – I say it was a combination of both…pessimism about the direction our nation/world had taken, and optimism that if we fought hard enough we could change it.  In our age-related crankiness we have lost our optimism, settling comfortably into a world-view based too much on fear and self-protection.  Opening up our minds and hearts again is imperative if we hope to make changes that are for the better.

Do these things, and our honor – as the generation that historically made a greater impact on social change than any other in the history of our nation – will indeed be restored.

A Fairy Tale for the Silent Majority

Once upon a time, in a land that was the mightiest throughout the world, the people in charge known as “Boomers” became very disgruntled and returned to their roots of activism; well, actually, only a small number of them did, but the media made it seem like it was lots & lots of them…

Yes, the protestors, on the extreme of both sides of the political divide, became very ugly…ooops, uh, vocal… about their unhappiness with many things the rulers of the land were doing, things like:

  • Passing “health care reform” where the peoples’ money was to be used to keep lots & lots of loyal subjects from, well, dying because they couldn’t afford care
  • Or not passing the part of health care reform called the “public option” whereby all subjects get government backed insurance no matter what
  • Or being too hard…or too soft… on a problem called “illegal immigration” whereby millions of people from another land called “Mexico” sneak in without permission to get work that no one else wants, but also get publicly funded healthcare and education…

These protestors were portrayed by the mainstream media as representing what most people of the land believed.

But low and behold, they were actually:

  • only 24% of all Republican voters, and only 20% of all Democratic voters
  • Boomers who were overwhelmingly White & male
  • Boomers who were retired or semi-retired so they had lots of time on their hands
  • or Boomers who were unemployed so they had lots of time on their hands and they were really cranky…

The most widely publicized complaint made by a group of these protesting subjects was that government money spent on programs called “entitlements,” designed to help the people of the land, are bad…except the ones they use (like a thing called “Social Security,” a government program designed to help the aging people of the land…or something called “unemployment compensation,” a government program to help people pay their bills while they’re out of work…).

And they vowed to take their revenge on any of the land’s leaders who voted for any such programs like health care reform without a public option, or health care reform of any sort which some protestors believed wasn’t needed at all, since most of them would soon be eligible for a thing called “Medicare” – another government program providing medical coverage for older subjects…

Thus, over a short period of time, and with help from the entire range of main stream media, it appeared that a minority of the land’s subjects would be able to dictate what the majority would get & what they “should” believe.

But alack, what about the other 56%?  Where did they stand?  What did they want?  Why were their voices not resounding out across the land?

We don’t as yet know the answer, but the moral of the story is:

In a land where the majority rules, and that majority is a “silent” one, the many will see their fate sealed by the will of the few…and in any other land, that is called a “dictatorship.”

We want to know what you think of our fairy tale.

Warning to “Non-voters”

I want to address the concept of not voting, which many think is an effective way to show discontent with candidate choices or the system in general.

Boy is that a fool’s errand.  Similar to snipe hunting.

The classic  fool’s errand comes in three varieties: going after something that in reality is non-existent, trying to accomplish a task in an impossible way, or trying to accomplish an impossible task.  By any of these criteria, not voting as a form of “protest” qualifies.

Because not voting is a completely inane method for getting your point across…right up there with, say, not paying your credit card bill as a way to protest high interest rates, or not calling a plumber to fix the leak that’s flooding your bathroom as a way to protest high contractor costs… the entity you’re protesting either doesn’t care or doesn’t know the difference, and the only one you’re hurting…is you.

The problem is…our form of government relies on a nifty concept known as majority rule, yet in any given race, the highest voter turn out, particularly from Boomers, is anywhere between 38 & 47%; the 2008 Presidential race had the highest turnout seen since 1968…at 56.8%.  Pathetic, isn’t it?

Such abysmal turn-out means two things:

  1. we have turned into a minority rule form a government: candidates are voted in by a majority, but it’s a majority of a minority of all registered voters…and
  2. you’re letting folks you don’t know, choose for you…bet you wouldn’t do that with even the most inconsequential things, so why would you do it for something as unequivocally imperative as who leads our country/states/counties/etc.?

Now I’ll break it down one step further, so you can see who is doing the voting for you…:

  • Only about 33% of consistent voters know precisely who they want to win regardless of party affiliation, and vote based on a candidate’s actual record of accomplishments…
  • but another approximately 33% of those who vote regularly do so along strict party lines regardless of the candidate’s qualifications or leadership capability
  • the remaining approximately 33% are undecided, usually until the last few days, and base their vote almost solely on the ever so truthful and fact-filled campaign ads they see on TV, and their vote oftentimes can determine who wins….
  • This means that approximately 66% of those who vote are doing so not based on candidates’ track record and true leadership capabilities, but upon pure rhetoric or party affiliation – which is why we have the kinds of rampant unprofessional, unethical, and unlawful behavior on an ever increasing scale that we see regularly on Capitol Hill, and more often now on the State and local levels
  • If companies/business owners hired their top managers on the above basis, Enron would be the norm….
  • Bottom line – the laws and priorities of the most powerful country on the planet are set by folks who were elected by a minority of voters, 2/3 of whom chose these folks for all the wrong reasons…

This is 100% scarey…. And we’re responsible…not the political parties, not the PAC’s, not big business….us.  We can stop wondering why those who get elected to public office are better suited for the National Enquirer than the House/Senate floor.

So, my fellow Boomers, as I said last post, keep doing the same ineffective thing and you’ll keep seeing the same dismal results.

Remember, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again, but expecting a different outcome.

Or, perhaps it’s yet the best definition of a fool’s errand.

What do you think?  Let me know.