Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The knee bone's connected to the thigh bone, the thigh bone's connected to....

Yesterday, in the aftermath of a police shooting in Whittier, CA, the police chief said something that really stuck with me.  He said, "Police work has changed so much in just the past four years.  People today don't want to follow rules....people don't care for each other anymore."

There is so much going on in our society today that is interrelated.  The Whittier gunman had just been released from prison and was a known gang member.  Why do people join gangs?  I've heard it's because they want to belong....belong to a group, a family of sorts.  So where is their birth family?  Are they having to work multiple jobs to pay their bills and not have time to look after their kids?  Has dad (or mom) just disappeared?  Are the parent(s) trying to escape their own troubles by turning to drugs or alcohol?

Now let's connect some dots:  For many decades government statistics have proudly reported the increase in productivity for the last quarter or the last year.  This means the same number of people can now produce more with the help of new technology, or the same amount can be produced using less people.  What used to take 10 workers to do can now be done with robots being operated by just 2 workers.  So where did those 8 displaced workers go?  Unemployment statistics say they have jobs somewhere, but they're probably working for dramatically less than they were before.

To make up for the pay cut, and to be able to maintain the standard of living they were used to, many take on a second job.  Meanwhile they're being bombarded by TV, the internet, etc, urging them to buy even more stuff.  It's a viscous circle, everyone looking out for themselves, wanting more and more, while not even having time to love and care for their own kids.

Is our system of "capitalism on steroids" partially to blame for this decline in our values?  Investors, usually operating through their 401K-fueled mutual funds, and hedge fund managers, don't give a damn about the laid off workers.  They don't care about the product being produced by the companies they invest in, whether it's a quality product or not, whether rules have to be "bent" in order to squeeze out another $.50, or anything else.  All they want is maximum profits, no excuses.  If American workers can't come through for them, others somewhere else can.

What has happened to us?  Capitalism is a great system, fact, but somewhere we stopped working for the common good and started looking out only for #1.  One extreme wants others to give them something, while at the other end they yell "I've got mine, screw you!"

Rarely do we need much more stuff.  A coffee maker is a coffee maker.  If you can't see your 65" TV, you don't need a 75" TV....you need glasses!  There's no need to trade in your 3-year-old car with 40,000 miles for a new, shinier model.  We're being suckered by marketing.  We want our friends to look at us and think we're really "cool".  We've become narcissists to one degree or another.  "Look at me, look at me!"

Here's the final conundrum:  We can live very comfortably with less, giving us more time to care for our kids, hopefully keeping them out of gangs and off drugs.  But if we don't buy more and more stuff, more people will lose their jobs, and we begin the cycle all over again.  Productivity is good....to a point.  Then we must face the unintended consequence of being too productive for our own good.  That productivity sweet spot is elusive.

Problems are easy to identify.  Answers are hard to find.  *sigh*



  1. Capitalism thrived when it was assumed the earth was an unlimited resource, which we no longer accept as true. Socialism in moderation is a necessary element for moving forward. Unfortunately, most Americans don't know the difference between Socialism and Communism.

  2. A lot of minority families only have one parent and often they need to work two or three minimum wage jobs to even hope to provide the bare minimum.

  3. I have a feeling that the next generation - the millenials - are the ones who are going to show us greedy baby boomers a thing or two. From what I've read, millenials don't really care as much as we do about owning a car. They bike, use Uber, share rides, share cars. They live in the cities, in small apartments. They buy and eat local. They don't feel that devoted obligation to a job, to "the man." They feel the same loyalty to their jobs as the CEOs have towards their employees.

    I know, they don't ALL do it, and they don't do it ALL THE TIME, but there is a trend. And I think we could learn from them.

    1. Excellent observation. It sounds like I was born a generation too soon, as many of those things appeal to me right now, except right now I'm considered an oddball.