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On Captialsm and Wealth – Religion and Politics

How do you in the United States (at or relatively near the “poverty level” in particular) think it would feel to be filthy rich?

What if I told you that by comparison to much of the rest of the World’s population, you know?

You see, it turns out that in very few places in the World do those who are considered “well off,” by and large, have as much substance as the impoverished here in the good ol’ U S of A do.

Put another way, you’re a relatively wealthy person, living a life of mostly First-World problems. Ooh, you missed a meal? How about if you lived in a place where, in order to make sure your children were fed, you regularly didn’t eat at all, and when you did eat, you did all you could to make sure your children did more eating than you did?

You’re worried about paying rent? How about living in a ramshackle hovel, with no running water, no heat, and no air conditioning, where—forgive me for being so crass—your “toilet”  is a hole in the ground or a tree?

I could go on—tell you about people living on garbage piles in Mexico and such—but I think you probably somewhat get the gist by what I’ve said to this point. The fact is, that residents of the United States of America are pretty much to a person among the World’s rich and elite.

The result is, when I hear people trashing Capitalism because they will “never be among the U.S.’ Rich,” I’m tempted to laugh them to scorn. Thing is though, many of them truly don’t know. They have as a frame of reference, having spent the majority of their lives here in the United States—oh, they may have visited Europe, or even Asia, or Africa, but they rarely had to “live like a local,”not even for a day.

As a child, I got just a tiny taste of how much of the rest of the World lives. Many of you know about Fiji, the “island nation” in the Pacific? Fiji is known as a “vacation haven for celebrities (read here “more rich folks”) and the super-wealthy.” I had the chance to visit Fiji when I was but seven or eight with my family. We children were not allowed to go absolutely everywhere, but we were given a pretty free hand. Well, we being who we were,  ignored the “warnings” to stay in the hotel “compound.”

Most First World folks are blissfully unaware that little island nations like Fiji (and Hawai’i) are absolutely fantastic places to grow certain crops like sugar cane and pineapple. Our venturing out into the cane fields taught us this was the case for little Fiji. Another interesting fact? At that time (in the early to mid seventies), many of the “workers” lived in little shanties among the cane they farmed.

After my short (less than a week) time in Fiji. I went on with my family to Hawai’i (where the cane fields were—by that point—managed entirely differently and the locals were relatively affluent by World standards), and after being there for a time, joined the U.S. Air Force.

Well, being young and stupid, I met and subsequently married a young Korean lady. We had a couple of great kids, but in an attempt to make her life better and happier, I sought a remote assignment to Korea, where—because she was a Korean national at the time—she could go and be with me. This all happened in the early eighties,

While we were there, I saw yet again what it meant to be among the World’s poor (certainly by comparison to the denizens of the U.S. in any case).

But the funny little “punch line” to this “joke,” is that the folks that I got to see, meet, and deal with were still relatively well off. You see, the countries I got to visit (you could argue “live in” for Korea, but I didn’t live nearly the same life as a local would have done there) were at least marginally capitalist at the time.

If you compare that to the parts of the World who were under dictatorial regimes, or who were intentionally Socialist or supposedly Communist, you see just how much better off even those places were and are.

Take a moment to pull up “night images” of North and South Korea from space on your “horribly slow Internet service” (that many in the world have little to no idea about) if you want to see an example.

Literally, the lights all but stop as you go north of the 38th parallel (the Demilitarized Zone or DMZ, wherein sits Panmunjom, or the “peace village”). You see them marginally in places like Pyongyang (For those unaware, North Korea’s capital city), but even there, there are “rolling blackouts” and power rationing. The first thing I would promise, is that the people in North Korea without lights at night are not so because they desire to be so. Nor do they run around with grumbling tummies (wanting nutrition) because they’re “trying to watch their girlish figures.”

The South, comparatively, is a regular Christmas tree of light. To be fair, South Korea has grown substantially  since I last visited (I left in 1990, when companies like Samsung, Kia, Dae Woo, Hyundai,  and Goldstar (whence came LG, or as it once was called “Lucky Goldstar”).

Now consider that many South Koreans don’t live at the same standard of living as the “poor” in the U.S.

How do you suppose the average standard of living in China, or Cuba looks by comparison to relatively poor folks in South Korea?

The best part? The thing so many detractors where Capitalism is concerned fail to see, is that the thing that is most likely to raise the poor out of their poverty around the World is Capitalism. Look at virtually any country where Capitalism is the norm and even in those where “Crony Capitalism” is the standard way of doing business, you’re typically far better off than in those where Communism, Socialism or some other form of despotism rules the day. If you happen to be in a place where “Crony Capitalism” is not so much the norm, but where Capitalism is the standard, all the better!

To “condense” this little essay, allow me to say this one thing. Show me a country where the general standard of living is high, and you will show me a place where Capitalism is the reigning philosophy supported by the government.

Thanks for reading, and may your time be good.

Business For LinkedIn Health and Fitness Philosophy Politics Religion Religion, Politics and Philosophy

Why I’m a Skeptic – Religion and Politics

Many people are prone to look at a person like me and immediately chant the “No negativity” mantra.

The funny thing is, I’m not a particularly negative person. What I am is a “skeptic.” In my mind, the most important thing about something one does or says, is that it should be treated as suspect (with notable exceptions of things about which I really don’t care).

That may seem like a negative posture to you, but to me, it’s simply common sense. As it is, periodically, I repeat, or take action based on the words and deeds of others, that prove in the long run to be badly incorrect at worst, or moderately unreasonable at the least.

In fact, so possible is this, that when Facebook recently “fact checked” something I reposted and declared it to be untrue, I really wanted to tell them that what I put out there, was deposited with the caveat that I had not taken the time to fact check what was said. This is something I now often provide as a warning, since fact checking everything is not something one can really do.

You might ask, “Why repost something you’re not absolutely sure of?” To begin with, read the previous paragraph again! Sometimes, you will post something that looks correct, and there will be issues and errors with it. Even so, some of the information contained will be valid, relevant, and worth knowing—and the fact that it’s not perfectly correct doesn’t mean none of it is.

In this case, it was a simple post surrounding the idea that every election cycle, there is a new virus or other “health crisis” to keep you thinking the “politicians must do something,” and that, “the opposition politician(s) isn’t(aren’t) doing enough.” It may well be true that not every election cycle has such a “scare.” It may also be true that some of the supposedly horrible illnesses and diseases talked about were not discussed directly in the “election cycle.”

The real  question though, is, “Why were those stories given so much press?” This is particularly the case when the vast majority of them proved to be a “flash in the pan.” For those unfamiliar, the point is, the “health threat” never amounted to much. If the post in question did nothing more, it served to highlight how very many such “concerns” there have been of late (and how little overall effect they tended to have).

I saw recently, an allusion to an expected problem with the “most recent” viral event—you know, the one that has basically closed down (in my view, for little to no reason) large parts of the U.S. and, indeed, the World? To wit, COVID-19.

The essence of the meme (a largely useless form of “communication” in my opinion—I try to avoid reposting or creating them) was, “If we don’t make everybody stay home, hospitals will be overwhelmed with the ‘victims!’” Based on Worldwide infection rates, this idea is total hogwash.

Besides that the infection rates are relatively low (nowhere I am aware of, has there been a tenth of a percent infection rate), the number of cases that require even emergency room or acute care facility visits is less than a tenth (probably closer to a hundredth) of those infected.

Face it, it’s very easy to get “swept up in” such a thing. It’s even easier for that to happen where folks with “vested interests” are concerned (for example, someone caring for in some sense, one or more immunocompromised individuals). It get it! You want to protect your loved ones (or faithfully shield those over whom you have charge). That’s admirable. As I said in my previous article though, stopping the Word from spinning for something that in the worst cases, has not proven to be as bad as, much less worse than the seasonal influenza that happens pretty much every year in countries around the World, is unreasonable at best. And mandating this occur can, in my view, be termed nothing less than an abuse of power.

I said also in my last post, that it’s understandable that you want to keep those in your charge who have immune system issues for one reason or another, “out of the fray.” I reiterate that here and now. That’s not a problem for me. Further if I can help to keep them from getting infected without being expected to halt my life (even for a short time), and put myself and others in financial jeopardy or need as a result, I’m more than happy to do just that.

Say, for example, you indicate that you’re unwilling to have visitors at your house while various events surrounding wellbeing are occurring without definite reason, that’s entirely fine by me and I’ll do everything I can to comply with your request(s).

On the other hand, when you tell me that I can’t eat in a public place, or go to work when I can’t avoid doing so without potentially suffering financial catastrophe, you need to know, I’m not going to be nearly so willing to concede.

I’m going to say it again, you’re concerned, I get it! You want to glom onto things that support your perspective. I get that too! But you’ll permit me my skepticism, when people say things for which at best, facts are not in evidence, and at worst, they’re making outright false statements to attempt to “cover” unreasonable acts by themselves or others.

I know that many will remain unconvinced by what I’m saying here, but I have hope that sanity will prevail and that people will come to understand that what’s occurring at the present moment, is untoward at best and potentially despotic at worst.

I urge you to “take a challenge.” Wait until after this has all “blown over.” When it has, ask yourself just how many cases of COVID-19 you have personally witnessed folks having. Having done that, then ask yourself this question, “Do I know anybody who knows anybody who had COVID-19?” Then ask just one more question, “Do I know anybody who knows anybody personally who died of COVID-19?”

If the answer to “all of the above” is, “No.” Maybe you should reconsider your stance(s) on such things, but even if it’s, “Yes.” You may still be being a bit overzealous about your perspective(s).

As usual, may your time be good, and thanks for reading.

Business For LinkedIn Health and Fitness Philosophy Politics Religion Religion, Politics and Philosophy

We’re Sorry, The World is Currently Closed – Religion and Politics

Here we are! 2020 and the Great Corona Scare is in full swing. I know that almost everybody I’ve talked with about this is at least marginally and mostly completely of a different opinion surrounding all that’s transpiring, than am I.

The thing is, the Corona Virus in its current mutation is like so many other viri that have existed before it. It is “new to” the human immune system. I’m pretty sure if you asked the average immunologist or virologist, he or she would tell you this happens all the time.

The only real question is, “Just how serious an effect do we expect COVID-19 to have?”

There are many who will argue that, if we continue on our current course, that effect will be far less serious than it could be, and there’s some sense to that argument. The reality though, is that for the majority of folks who have and who are due to contract COVID-19, the chances are far better than not that they will make a relatively quick and pretty much—if not entirely— complete recovery.

Some smaller number of folks will suffer more severe symptoms, and sadly, a substantially smaller number, will die (or at least, come very close to death). If various folks are to be believed, the mortality rate is between one and three percent of all folks who contract the disease. The truth is, that number is undoubtedly skewed, based on the fact that the best figures presently available are out of China. I have nothing against China or the Chinese, but the reality is, they tend to be far less prepared for new viral outbreaks than a country like, say, the United States. I would argue that this is to be expected. Why? Well because of China’s immense population and comparatively small land mass.

“Wait!” You say, “China and the U.S. Are roughly the same size. This is true. Yet current population estimates indicate the peopling of China to be around 1.4 billion individuals, where the number of folks in the similar-sized U.S. is a mere 328 million. The United States is by no means perfect at dealing with things like viral outbreaks, but its record is substantially better than that of China. Again, that’s no knock on China (even if I happen to believe the U.S. Form of government is superior to the one used there).

In any case, the point is, it is expected that no more than three out of every hundred people is likely to die of COVID-19. As a rule, it is typically also true, that the longer a virus is around, the less likely folks are to die from it. This reality is due to a number of factors, but two “stick out in” my mind.

The first is that folks develop immunity to things. They contract a given disease, and their bodies fight it. The result, thanks to an amazing system (which I would argue is an amazing design), is such things largely “lose their teeth” over the course of time. It is arguable, but many scientists say this is why things like viri mutate to begin with.

The second thing that comes to mind, is that people tasked with dealing with afflicted souls, get better at doing so, the more of that particular group they work to help, figuring out how to keep the folks alive and—considering their sickened state—comparatively healthy.

These two realities alone are “game-changers.” If anything, I would expect the mortality rate to go down as the virus spreads. That’s not to say the number of people dying won’t go up, but that the number of folks dying in ratio to those contracting COVID-19 will likely go down.

Even if the number of folks dying ends up being orders of magnitude greater than the ‘flu that will invariably “go the rounds,” we’re still likely talking about better than a 96 percent survival rate!

I know, I know, anybody dying is bad. I’m not trying to argue to the contrary. The point though, is that when the World grinds to a halt over such an outbreak, the bare minimum result is that quality of life will be affected for a good many people. That is to say, among other things, they will at least have to spend a great deal of time and effort coming up with essentials just based on the fact that others will buy them, “Just in case.”

Then, contrary to popular and errant belief, there are the very many people who cannot work from home or remotely. In the best case those folks get paid to not work. In the worst, the folks employing them will at least advise, if not mandate that they not come in to work, while not compensating them.

The result is a bunch of folks living in various states, from wealthy to impoverished, who are not making money. In case you’re confused about that, many of those folks need to be earning money in order, in many cases, to just survive.

On top of that, many of them work doing things that allow others to do things like, shop for essentials, buy gas for the family car, or eat a relatively healthy meal. And again, many of those things cannot be done anywhere but the workplace.

Yes, it’s true, business does suffer as a result of such situations. That’s not a good thing to begin with, but the fact that others are “forced to” suffer right along with business is far worse.

In the end, what am I trying to say? It is this. If you have children, or parents, or friends or others about whom you care who’re likely to get at least a bad, if not the worst outcome from COVID-19 (or any other virus or disease), it’s entirely reasonable to want to “keep them out of the line of fire.” Even so though, telling the rest of the World that it’s unreasonable for them to “take their chances” when it comes to viri and similar is entirely unreasonable.

Your child, or parent, or uncle, or friend has a “compromised immune system” (whatever the reason)? I’m sorry to hear that! Do what you can to make it possible for them to “stay out of the fray.”

Ask others to help them as well, but please don’t tell the rest of the world to stop living life—even if only for a little while—in order to “protect them.”

Allow me to wish you good times, and thank you for reading.

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Parenting Versus Every Other Relationship – Religion and Politics

I can’t imagine being a parent and not appreciating everyone who is truly helpful in my task of parenthood. That’s truer as a result of having a moderately Autistic seven year old than it even was for my other children.

The truth is, that my other children didn’t need nearly as much “stuff” (physical, mental, psychological) as does the Autistic child. This underscored those who were truly being helpful in the upbringing of my little boy. With my other children, most who helped were more or less nonchalant in their “help.” This is not so much the case with Garrett.

Even so, there is a world of difference between what those others did and do, and what a parent deals with where their child is concerned.

My child has had the extreme good fortune, of attending just two daycares, and going to a single school. To make that even better, he has had the same teachers (and mostly the same daycare workers and supplemental educators) for his first two years of school.

I would be telling absolute lies if I said that these were not more or less invaluable and intangible assets.

As if things were not good enough in that regard, his primary teacher is as good at dealing with him as I could have hoped for—she is truly an almost perfect person to which I may entrust my son for his time at school.

But the point of all aforesaid, is that their influence and importance pales in comparison to my own. No, I’m not being “big headed.” No, I’m not saying this is true for me alone, or for the parents of Autistic children only. This is a reality that applies to all parents who choose to take on the appropriate role(s) with their children.

The “dirty little secret?” It is this. Where a child needs to be dealt with in ways that will make him or her grow, develop, learn and mature, before all of that, a child needs at least one (and really a couple of) parent(s) who will get him or her up in the morning. They need someone who will change diapers, potty train, feed, teach basic life skills, buy food, buy diapers, pay rent (or a mortgage) and do a plethora of similar tasks. Even when the child ends up in daycare or school during the day,  parents must fill in all the gaps.

Those of you without children probably have no real idea just how daunting a task this actually is. Keep in mind that, by way of disclamation, I know people who have never had children “of their own,” and yet are every bit the parents those who give birth to, are fathers of, and care greatly about, their children. In fact, allow me to mumble under my breath as I talk, and say *cough, cough Brian-and-Valerie-Hinsen!* Not that they are the only folks I know who embody parenthood without being the “natural parents of” their children, but they are definitely one excellent example.

The point is though, where a parent must take the time and effort to look after their children in more ethereal fashions, before any of that, they must be prepared to have baby vomit on their collective shoulders, to wipe dirty backsides and clean runny noses. They must be ready to make lunch, to clean amazing messes, to dress an unwilling child. The must be ready to go to work (and not just for themselves). They must take their children places to run and play. They must teach basic life lessons and impart wisdom.

All of the above and a great deal more are part and parcel with parenthood. And when grandma and grandpa “give a child back,” it’s to the parents. This is, of course, also true for teachers, daycare workers and even doting aunts, uncles and friends.

It is assuredly true that there are a good many horrible parents. It’s a fact that parents run the gamut from award winners and legends to parents with which one would not trust one’s pet rock! Even so, by and large, parents generally are folks who must be, and indeed must be ready to do that which nobody else will do for their children.

So if you happen to be sitting there thinking to yourself as a non-parent, “So what’s the big deal about parenthood?” I urge you to remember that your friends (and your enemies) with children have generally pledged a bare minimum of sixteen years (and often a lot longer) to the rearing and upbringing of their children.

For my Autistic son, I literally may be “stuck with” him for the rest of my life. Now to be fair, I can think of no person with whom I would more like to “stuck” than my son. That by no means implies that I have an easy road ahead of me. Parents with “normal” children may “have it easier,” but it’s no “cake-walk” for them either.

Think about your “parent friends” and remember, their kids soiled diapers, often drank bottles every two hours, complained about dinner, whined about not having enough time to play or not having the toy the wanted and were otherwise onerous to their “loving parents.”

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all spit up and soiled diapers. There are (for most parents) wonderful, even magical times with the child(ren) in question. That being true, forget not that some substantial part of that parent’s time was spent in far from ideal circumstances. They dealt with things they probably had little idea they were likely to see or be challenged with.

The amazing thing? Most of those parents would happily stand in the stead of their child when the child goes through some hardship like cancer, losing a limb or life-threatening illness.

If you haven’t taken the time to look back on the lives of your parent(s), I urge you most fervently to do so today.

You might be able to “see things through the lens of” my descriptive, and it may well totally change your perspective on your own parents.

Thanks for reading, and may your time be good

Business For LinkedIn Health and Fitness Philosophy Politics Religion Religion, Politics and Philosophy

Employers, the Benefactor Most Beneficiaries Love to Hate – Religion and Politics

You are a successful businessperson. Most people have no idea what you had to do and be in order to accomplish that. They look at your position today and assume ’twas ever thus.

They’re unable to imagine the “days of ramen.” They cannot envision you struggling to pay for gas in your old used car. All many of them ever get to see, after all, is the “success.”

Even now, the ability to pay bills is probably keeping you up at night. To this day, you expect to work as much as sixteen hours in a given day to keep your concern in good health.

Oh, some day, you may get to the point where you can relax, but that day is assuredly not today.

Your success almost invariably came and comes at a cost, and often nothing like a small one.

On the way to your current position, two interesting things happened. The first, was that the “job” outpaced the time you had to do it in.  You knew you were not in a position to hire folks initially, so you just worked that much harder, hoping to get to the place where you could bring others on to help with what needed done.

Second, you ultimately got there! You became able to hire others to help out. They couldn’t do everything. There were still parts of it you had to do. You continued to hope that one day, you would be able to hire someone who could “manage,” who could make it possible for you be able to periodically take a little time off.

Maybe you’re still waiting for that to happen, but the hope abides.

The funny part of all of this? The folks you were able to hire are at best ambivalent. On the one hand, they were happy to just have a job! On the other hand though, all you do for them never seems to be enough.

One of the things that kept you from hiring for so long, was the sheer expense of taking on staff. You were small, so you weren’t required to pay things like health insurance (though you wanted to do so, it just wasn’t an option). Your workers were not “highly skilled labor,” so their wages were comparatively cheap. You remember well, the revelation of all that you had to pay on top of the wages.

There was the “employer portion” of taxes, to begin with. Until taking on people to help you out, that was “not a thing.” So many other expenses were there as well, when you started out, you didn’t need as large a space, when you took folks on, that became all but mandatory. You went from having a modest office where you worked and “took your breaks” such as they were, to needing a “break room.” Yet more space for which you had to pay.

Granted, for the help (such as it was), you counted the additional cost a “necessary evil.”

The interesting thing though is, though your employees were treated better than you were when you worked for others, they never seemed or seem happy with all you did, and continue to do for them.

The reality is, you could have kept your endeavor small. You could have managed to keep the number of people needed to get things done a great deal lower than you did. In fact, looking back, you realize you probably could have figured out how to continue to do pretty much everything on your own and still managed some sort of life.

One thought that constantly crossed your mind though, is that you could give others something to do with their time, and in return for their honest day’s work, you could give them an honest day’s wage.

Of course, you also hoped that, in growing your business, you would get improved revenue, part of which you could use to make your life a little easier. This turned out to be a great deal harder than it appeared. Taking on employees was no simple or cheap proposition. That turned out to be particularly true if you wanted to “do right by” your workers.

One thing that always mystified you though, is that you were often vilified by others, for how you treated your workers. Politicians said you didn’t do enough for them. Former and current workers were forever seeking more benefit from their employment (you acknowledge, something you somewhat understood and understand). Even when people worked in the same industry, were paid less and treated worse, they would come to work for you, and say you were not doing enough for your workers.

“It’s understandable,” you thought, “that people want more and better out of life.” Even so though, the feeling of embattlement that became more or less constant totally changed the character of your life.

In the end, it got to the point where you had others working for you, “managing” your workers, and they ended up taking a large part of the flak. Oh, you still had to deal with it, but more from a distance.

In the end though, the point is, you worked very hard  for what you had and have. You made so many sacrifices. You made do. You scraped for years. You learned the meaning of hunger, of need, first hand.

Your road was not an easy one. Getting from a place of working for others, making little to nothing yourself, you understand acutely how your employees feel. At the same time though, you know what it took to get from that point, to the place you now reside. You know it wasn’t any easy thing.

What makes that even harder to this day, is that others aren’t happy for you. They don’t celebrate your success. Rather, they curse you under their collective breath. You understand their situations, but it doesn’t make it any easier that they “bite the very hand that feeds them.”

What should others take away from this? Firstly, your employer does not “owe you” a position. Secondly, those people who are successful, have often failed far more than they have succeeded. They have likely seen just as many (and probably far more) struggles and hard times as you have, and possibly more than you ever will.

As usual, thanks for reading, and may your time be good.