A Changing World (and not for the Better)

Any topic that qualifies as a complicated conversation generally contains a lot of heated passion from every side, regardless of the topic being explored. I will of course be talking from my own point of view, so go with the assumption that it’s my opinion. When I give facts, I will also provide the appropriate links so that you know it’s NOT my opinion.
So before I wade into the fray, I remind my gentle readers that regardless of how much of a twist your knickers get into, this is still a POLITE conversation. Anything less than polite (flaming, obscenity directed at the author or the other comments, hate speech, derogatory remarks without real substance for an alternate view, or sheer stupidity) will be deleted and the user will be blocked.
“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more…” (Shakespeare, “Henry V”)


So Britain has voted, by a relatively slim but significant number, to bow out of the European Union (EU). Apparently many of those who had voted to leave are now Googling “EU” to find out just what exactly it was that they are getting out of. Also apparently, the propaganda machine (“Britain First” is the one I know about; there must be others) convinced a bunch of people that it was in their best interest to exit the EU. The main reason seems to be stopping immigration. (Britain First, policy page)

They also want to keep the UK and not allow Scotland, Ireland et al to have their own sovereignty. “British Unionism”, they call it. That’s okay. But NOT European Union-ism. (I guess adding the “ism” makes the difference.) They want the UK to be a Christian nation–meaning that the government should be Christianity-based. This is a country that has “Jedi” as a recognized religion. What are the odds that many religions are already present on the island? (Hint: a LOT.)

The 5th principle for Britain First read thus: “Britain First stands opposed to all alien and destructive political or religious doctrines, including Marxism, Liberalism, Fascism, National Socialism, Political Correctness, Euro Federalism and Islam. Britain First is a movement of British nationalism, patriotism and democracy.” I don’t think “Political Correctness” is actually a political or religious doctrine. But the sentence serves as a fine example for choosing the words you would use to sway public opinion. Sounds really…stirring. But when carefully read and parsed out to find the real meaning? “We won’t have anything that is different from what (those who voted to leave) we want for our country.” The whole policy statement, with all of its $1, even $5 words…boils down to “we hate anyone or anything that is different and we won’t allow it here.” Regardless of the consequences–which the people are just beginning to understand. Like a 90 Billion pound fall on the stock market. Like not being able to go to any other EU country to live and work freely. Back to visas and paperwork to move addresses. Which I am sure also works in the opposite way: no one coming into Britain for work or to live. They already had a fairly draconian policy; this will make it even harder and worse for those who would like to emigrate to the UK.

I’m sure there will be lots of other unexpected consequences as Britain goes to being just an island nation without the cohesion of an EU to provide support. I understand that each EU nation is expected to assist with the overall health and running of the EU, so it seems like “our” money is going to “them” instead of “us”. Other countries are already beginning their push for leaving the EU, so it will almost assuredly fail and Europe will go right back into its tribal behaviors. Each country will want to do what is best for that country, to hell with the rest of them. Sounds like a recipe for war. You know, like WWI and WWII.

Britain’s action of leaving the EU has started a conversation in my house about what it can mean and how this situation relates to the state of our own country’s union (or lack thereof). I may not live long enough to see it, but I am of the mind that eventually, there will be not just national, but global, chaos and anarchy until the strong achieve victory. (And it may not be the wealthiest, one can only hope.)

We have our own population of misinformed and misguided people, who prefer the pie crust promises (easily made, easily broken) of various groups (politicians, the NRA, the corporations) to the reality of what is occurring right now, right here. For example:

Our financial system is built on fairy farts and sunshine, rather than solid (real) worth. Most of the “money” is electronic potential and not an accurate assessment of a bank’s true capital. (Had a friend who closed an account at TD Bank. They offered a cashier’s check; she refused and asked for cash. They didn’t have enough cash in the branch to pay her. And we’re only talking about $10k, not really a “huge” amount of money.) The stock market and Wall Street are completely based on very pretty but totally fictional stories. It’s either making money from things that haven’t been made or haven’t happened, or it’s “making” money from the appearance of a company’s worth, whether that truly reflects its worth or not. Point of fact: Wall Street has said several times that Blackberry (RIM) is failing…because it is showing lower numbers. Well, figures lie and liars figure. When Blackberry first arrived on the scene, it was the only “smart” phone and has stellar contact and time management software. Which is why it ended up in the hands of many company’s employees. Being first, and pretty much only, at that point RIM was making, let’s say 95% of the profit for that type of product. Then Apple and Google come along with their versions of smart phones and add themselves to the market. RIM’s numbers go down because they are sharing the pie. Never mind that they are still making millions of dollars and doing very well, thank you. Wall Street is not interested in your profits; they are after the “profit margin”, which is how your company compares to the other companies within your product line. And with Wall Street “experts” saying that a company is going to fail…becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as investors remove their money from that company. Even though it was still making money in profits for those investors.

It’s all just a carnival scam; tell me which can contains the ball and I’ll pay you back twice the money paid to play. “Hedge” funds? Shouldn’t even be a term. There are two types of hedges: the green one you have to trim, and the financial kind. That’s defined as “a limited partnership of investors that uses high risk methods, such as investing with borrowed money, in hopes of realizing large capital gains.” One of the key words in that definition is “hope”, the hope that it will lead to big money. It’s got another name besides hedge fund and that’s “Ponzi scheme”, named after the first hedge fund manager shyster who came up with the idea of borrowing people’s money and then using it to make more money. It may work for a while but if your dreams of big pay-offs don’t materialize, you are in deep doo-doo. (Unless you’ve managed to figure out how to keep YOUR money out of the investment hedge.) Eventually, your investors will want their money–and their share of the gain–back. Just ask Bernie Madoff. (Side note: I personally know someone who lost ALL of their money, designed to pay for retirement, because of Mr. Madoff. My friend is working as a waiter and doesn’t figure to ever be able to retire.)

Our government is the best money can buy. Unfortunately, the money was not from the constituents but from corporations and special interest groups. The current schism between the Republicans and Democrats points to the real possibility of the collapse of our political system. At which point, the Brexit vote will look like a walk through the park–our states will each one declare themselves a discrete and autonomous “country”…except maybe the deep South and Texas shall arise as the CSA, something they have wanted for almost 240 years. We have one of the most intransigent, heels dug in, Congress in pretty much our entire national history–not since the Southern States blackmailed the Continental Congress into agreeing to their terms (keeping slavery) or they wouldn’t go along with the revolution. Politicians at every level of government are starting (and in growing numbers) to declare that the US is a “Christian” nation and we need to ignore the Constitution’s rules about a federally-mandated national religion. There is a growing number of Republican white males who think that women’s vote should be taken away. There is too much fuckery with the voting process, between gerrymandering the precincts and not counting all of the votes to every other kind of interference that can be done to keep people from exercising their civil right (and duty). There is no established system to stop and punish the most egregious corruptions of elected power, such as spending millions of taxpayer’s money to repeal an in-place and active law…62 times. Or refusing to even talk to a candidate for the Supreme Court. Or consistently opposing the President on everything, just because. Maybe our “democracy” (which is really a republic, read the definitions for each) should die, so that some form of government that is more inherently equivocal for all citizens can take its place.

Our economy sucks. Sorry to use such a technical term, but it does. When the apparently standard business model is “BOGO”, it means several things: the items are VASTLY overpriced, AND they aren’t selling. McDonald’s is having to close 700 stores because of the loss of income. Almost half of this nation’s citizens live one major catastrophe away from poverty. The middle class only exists as long as the credit cards and multiple mortgages are permitted and not called in to be paid off. I remember 11% interest on Certificates of Deposit and 8% interest on credit cards, as well as checking accounts that offered a decent rate on interest, based on how much you kept in the account. Now it’s considered great if you get even 1% of interest on savings, most checking does NOT give interest and the interest rate on credit cards is usury–or would be if the credit card companies hadn’t lobbied and gotten the usury laws repealed. Our economic issues are not just about taxes on the rich (which essentially are zero). It’s definitely about the off-shoring of jobs and capital investments that could have been used here, in this country, to make our own economy strong, instead of providing Third World countries with smart phone knock-offs and factory deaths. It’s about a minimum wage that does not even begin to cover the true cost of living, leaving those earning it barely enough to scrape by. There is no extra money for anything, so the shopping done is of a bare, subsistence nature: food, home, and car (with its attendant gasoline consumption). It’s about large, influential corporations controlling the prices of necessary items, such as the aforementioned gasoline, to inflate their profit (margins!) and keep their CEO pay levels in the millions. While the people who are really doing the work are making minimum wage. There’s something seriously wrong with a system that pays the CEO in just 1 or 2 minutes what it takes one of their employees to earn in a year.

For a “United” States, we are appallingly divided, along all sorts of lines: gender, gender identification, sexual orientation, age, religion, race, and any other descriptive but separating word. The first three refer mostly to what bathroom you use. Nothing more. They should not be the subject of laws, protests or hate. They are. Religion is the other “hot” divider as too many neo-christians stand up and while pretending to talk for all Christians, deny non-Christians the same right to *their* religion as the neo-christians have. They scream that their religious rights are being ignored or shattered. Well, your right to religion (and religious freedom) does NOT give you the right to hate. And in your hating, to then discriminate, subjugate, endanger or even kill those who have a different religion.

This division between “us” and “them”, whichever description those refer to, is the leading reason we are not really a united country. There is an active but somewhat shadowy presence in our nation (in the world, but we’re dealing with US) that is very carefully crafted to create hate, and its Siamese twin, fear. You hate what isn’t like you, and you fear those who are different. Hard to tell which one comes first, but they do end up together. And this fear-mongering, hate-creating presence (it’s actually made up of a lot of people and groups) leads the less-informed sheeple by the nose, to do whatever it is seeking to achieve.
Ignorance and apathy are its allies. “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” (Joseph Goebbels) Or as Agent K said in “Men in Black”: “A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it. Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.”

Given all of this doom and gloom, what are the chances of this nation of ours being a truly united country? Unless things change (and they have been know to do that), I would predict a painful splintering into the various state-nations or clump-of-state-nations. The chances for bringing all 50 states back into a cohesive country becomes almost impossible at that point. Any method of uniting would require conquering all the independent sections. It’s not 13 colonies in a single, relatively small geographical space; we’ve grown to cover this land from sea to shining sea. And even our Founding Fathers had some in-fighting: the Declaration of Independence originally had a paragraph that would have abolished slavery. The Southern states, particularly South Carolina and Georgia, were so adamant about its removal that they refused to ratify the document it it wasn’t taken out. There was also some Northern support for removing it–from men who were slave traders and therefore had a vested interest in maintaining the slavery status quo.

We have (naturally) settled into specific areas; the East Coast, the South, the Midwest, the West Coast and so on. While we have tangible separations, such as rivers and mountains, we have many, many more intangible ones. And these are the things we are seeing in our daily social life: urban “jungles”, police killing civilians without verifying any wrong-doing prior to shooting and a distinction I particularly abhor: intelligence is vilified. Simple answers seem more than suitable for problems that are actually quite complex and will not take a one word or one sentence answer to solve. Hatred and fear are being fomented on many fronts, but particularly in the gender/sexual orientation identity and the same old racial arguments. We have a large–and apparently growing–population that is racist, sexist, homophobic and rabidly, religiously, zealots. They do not see the large picture, or the long term effects of the things they want to change now. People who know me, like my kids, will tell you that this is one of my favorite sayings: “In Nature, there is no right or wrong. There are only consequences.” I think that this group of stupid, hateful, and fearful people have no concept of the consequences of the things they think they want. Like the British subjects who voted to leave the EU because they thought it would keep immigrants out, our own haters want to dismantle the Federal government, limit the state governments and make their rules the ones that count.

There is no way that it cannot lead to violence and the shattering of a 240 year old nation that began with violence. I saw the fact mentioned that the US has been in some kind of war for 222 years, or 93%, of its existence. What does that say about us ‘Murrricans? I could say that it means we are a violent people, accustomed to using violence to solve any differences. That’s apparently true. But I also think that we can be better than that, that we can grow up and stop using fistfights to end disagreements. We have the potential, as does every nation, every being, to set aside violence, fear and hate as being unnecessary and a hindrance to meaningful and thoughtful agreements. We have only this planet (at the moment) and we need to stop dividing ourselves into essentially futile groupings, and stop using insignificant terms of description for that splintering. We are part of our nations, to be sure. But at the end of the day, when all the reason for division is removed, we are, at our very core, human beings. Every single man, woman and child on this planet. Just amazing human beings–which are so much more than our plumbing, our skin color, how long we’ve been alive or what god or gods we believe in.

As our elections draw nearer, we’ve each got some decisions to make. Who will be our best hope as President? Who will we choose to represent us on the international stage, to be the leader of our goals (living wage, different tax laws to keep the rich people from hiding their wealth in the Caymans,) and to work with the entire Congress to keep our country running? This also means that we have to vote for the Congress critters who will adhere to the promise of serving their constituents and will work with the President for us and the US. Don’t vote to leave the nation. Vote to stay together, to work together and keep this country to the ideals we have about it: democracy, equal rights, compassion, and working together, no matter our differences.

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