We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Friday, December 11. 2015
I spent last weekend with my family celebrating my father's 80th birthday. My sister and one of her sons flew in from their home in Vienna, Austria as a surprise. My other sisters picked her up to join us, as did my brother, his wife and one of his sons. We all traveled to Connecticut to see my niece play in her first two high school hockey games. She played well, picking up 2 assists and her team won both games, beating one of their rivals for only the second time in history. She is a freshman, excellent on defense, and has the Olympics in her future. My father loves watching her games, so we turned it into a celebration.
As my wife and I traveled home, I reflected on the conversations that weekend, as well as the many I've had with my father over the course of my life. Obviously, my personal points of view were influenced by my parents. But rather than simply adopting their views, both taught me (and my brother and sisters) to think critically. Like most families, our views on life, politics, and economics vary greatly not only from our parents', but from each other.
Growing up, heated discussions took place during meals. We covered all kinds of topics from art, history, literature to politics and music. On Maggie's there is plenty to remind me of those conversations, even some of the heated comments down below. My father's birthday, realizing his parents didn't even reach the age of 80, caused me to think long and hard about the positions I take in these discussions.
After some reflection, I began to realize most of the opinions I fight against are related to envy and desire...
The people who hold the views I oppose don't think of them as being based on envy and desire, but they definitely are. These views are also driven by the belief that one must know more than others, and it is our duty to 'help' those who don't know better by passing laws which make these poor folk 'better off'. Laws, of course, don't teach responsibility, they don't teach accountability, and they don't create jobs or income. Laws don't provide a moral code, they only create criminals of people who don't abide by the moral code of those who pass laws. Parents, usually, are the source of our moral compass. They provide the direction we need early in life to gain the things we'll need later. Hopefully.
I happen to love my life. Certainly the fact I am economically and educationally well-off plays a role. While those are factors in why I am happy, I don't consider them the most important reasons. Yet some people spend so much time worrying about equality of wealth, income, or complaining about the need for laws like gun control. I will provide information and facts to dissuade them, however quixotic a task that may be. However, the weekend reminded me of one thing all of us need to realize - and it's a point I try to make whenever people call me uncaring or heartless.
Life is getting better, we're living longer, and wealth is spreading around the world to more people.
I'm lucky because both my parents have lived to an age most of us hope to live to. I'm lucky because I've gotten to share in their great joys and we've consoled each other in our sorrows. But we're all very lucky to live in an era in which most of us are capable of living to these ages with significant ease and health. We live in an period of great progress. We ignore that progress at our peril. It is in complaining about what we want or what we don't have which will allow these gains to be taken from us. I love what I've got, but I'm clever enough to know it could all be gone in a moment, and I have to be prepared for any and all eventualities. That is the primary benefit of how I was raised, knowing nothing in life is assured and all life carries risk.
All I want, all I've ever wanted, is to live my life and not worry about others forcing me to live the way they want me to. That desire was given to me by the great insights of my mother and my father. Both had a desire to live their lives in whatever fashion they chose. They chose significantly different paths. As a result, I have come to abhor politics and political solutions and the people who want to force their views on others by passing absurd laws to get, or give others, what they want.
My wish for my father, as his 80th birthday passes, is that he will continue to see great advancements in his field of study - medicine - throughout his twilight years. As well as to see his desire for greater individual freedom, rather than increased power of government, take place. I hope, as the people whose views I oppose consider their positions, they realize that what they want for themselves and 'society' requires a forceful means of implementation, usually forcing people to change or taking something from them. I hope they realize that while they mean well, they do not do well.
My father considers himself lucky to have spent a great weekend with all his children and 3 of his grandchildren. I consider myself lucky to have such a wonderful father and family and still be able to celebrate great moments like this weekend.
As much as this was a personal event, there is a grander context to consider. It is nice to realize that what I get to experience is far more common today, around the world, than it has ever been in humanity's history. We have achieved this through the benefits of having great individual freedoms and free markets. Reducing those freedoms will not improve our lives or the lives of our children. It would be an empty legacy if, in living these long and prosperous lives, we chose a path which limited or reversed the path of progress which got us here.
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A lovely witnessing to life.
Only in America! Land of the free, home of the brave.
God bless all of us, as per Dickens.
I am 68. My Mother is 92. My Father lived til 93. I am very thankful that they were able to live out their lives without fear of poverty. I will not be able to. Though I have been working since seventh grade, I missed out on the pensions. Laid off for the last time at 62, I now look at the end of my life with great fear. The globalization of the economy sent my work to India. I don't begrudge them a growing middle class but I am no longer in one here. Their gains are my loss and I am very afraid. I am not a Trump supporter but I know the depths of anxiety he is appealing to.
Sorry to hear that.
I've been laid off 4 times over the last 17 years. I have no pensions, either. I have had my moments of great fear, and even though I'm working now, I always worry about what may happen tomorrow. My firm just went through a round of layoffs.
But my situation isn't yours, so delving into it won't make you feel better or help you out. However, there is one thing I know from being laid off. Each time, I lowered my immediate expectations, and learned new skills and was able to re-enter the market faster. I cut my spending and prepared to work for a lower income. Each time I got a job, I had to work back up to my prior income level.
Assuming that I will have all that I have now when I hit 63, or even 2 years from now, isn't the way I live my life. I have no expectations that I must live better than my parents did. Mainly because unless my financial situation goes completely out the window, I will. Simply because things are getting better, even if we tend to not notice how.
My step-sister lives down in Florida. 10 years ago she had a steady job, good benefits, at a company that was growing. Then all the jobs were outsourced. The only advice I could give her was how to talk with the banks to save her mortgage, which she did.
She's working in retail now, making far less than she did. She doesn't have my education. But she did realize things can't always go exactly the way you expect. She was never a planner, never prepared for things to go awry. But she has remained optimistic and despite some tough times, she's living well enough.
Even if you do plan, they can still go terribly wrong.
My point of view is that if you believe the negative press, you're going to be negative. If you're negative, you'll fail to see or take advantage of opportunity.
The middle class in the US is shrinking mainly because it is getting wealthier.
While the data shows a shift of more people out of 'middle class', it doesn't explain that the lower and lower middle quintiles are better off today than they were in the past - their incomes have all risen, while the cost of living has fallen (think of something as simple as a phone - the cost in 1971 was rather expensive and it was limited to your home - today phones are ubiquitous and mobile and are, relatively speaking, cheap).
It's easy to create fear when you can tap into misleading data. It's also easy to tap into the very real fear that is out there for some people who have seen their lifestyles shift.
While pointing to data will not make you personally wealthier, healthier, or feel more secure - the truth is things are still getting better. But some narratives simply tap into the fear, and that's something Eric Hoffer once said is an easy thing to utilize to generate support for an agenda.
I hope you can turn things around. I'm sure your best years are ahead.
Thanks Bulldog. I appreciate your kind words. But as I said, I'm 68. I've applied for hundreds of jobs. My problem isn't that I'm negative. It's that I am relatively old in an economy with too few jobs for too many people. I have been caught up in an economic upheaval that has nothing to do with me. The Boomers get blamed for everything but I'm in the first years of the Boomers and I am among the first who will find out that the guys before us rolled up the mat on their way out.
Oh and phones may be cheap now but you can't buy fish of any description for less than $15/pound. Hamburg costs $8/pound. This has happened in 5 years. There's no inflation?
I know what you mean. I'm 55 years old, and Mom is alive, witty and getting kind of rolly-polly at 87. Dad lived to 83 without ever spending a night in a hospital. I don't recall my parents ever having all their teeth. When I was young, Dad used to do this hilarious thing where he would push out his top plate to scare us.
My extended family is so blessed or lucky, I can't believe it. Mom and dad came from laborers. Coal miners and steel workers. Dad jumped up to skilled trades as an aircraft mechanic. In retrospect, we had no luxuries, were free-range kids, like everyone we knew. Now, I and my three brothers and three sisters have all had careers working indoors using our brains. We all have paid-off houses, take nice vacations, and don't have to fix our own cars. All of Mom's grand-babies have or are finding their place in the world, and the great-grand-babies are coming along nicely. I wonder if those kids will feel lucky.
I was born 15 years after World War 2. Dad was in it. As our generation was growing up, we were surrounded by great men and strong women. We were surrounded by people who had seen hard things.
I am a teacher, and am impressed by the kids today, but we live in a time and place where you expect that everything will work out. When I was young, I didn't consider the future. I wonder how the expectations game will work out for them.
Thank you for the post Bulldog. Family is so important. My daughter sent me a link to a youtube video of from the band she's going to see tonight in Brooklyn. They put together a montage of their grandparents family video clips over 70 years, and it's so poignant I cried. It's at Youtube under Ludlow Thieves, "Almost".