Sunday, April 08, 2018

Getting Involved in Hopefully Positive Participatory Local Governance

In the midst of a fairly busy week, I had a good, interesting experience with the Cook County Government. It happened at a Community Conversation regarding a "Cook County Policy Roadmap" that President Toni Preckwinkle, the current Cook County Board President, posted on one of her Facebook pages.

Even the fact of the event being announced on President Preckwinkle's Facebook page struck me as positive. A constituent just has to follow President Preckwinkle on Facebook to know about outreach events happening. In this day and age, when our personal information along with our friends' personal information gets skimmed from Facebook to possibly sway US Federal Elections, practically anyone who cares can stay fairly apprised of announcements from a governmental office by just following it on social media. If readers take anything away from this blog entry, I hope they'll go follow the Facebook pages and other social media accounts of their elected officials and governmental offices to stay abreast of public announcements.

I won't get into too many localized details about the event, so non-Cook County residents don't have to worry too much about feeling left out or getting bored. We discussed some local matters, but the event itself ended up more of brainstorming event, which felt refreshing. I'll describe some aspects of the meeting, but nothing too particular to Cook County. If anything, mentioned aspects could provide some insight into governmental practices and discussions governments have with their constituents.

Before getting into the positivity and refreshingness of the event, though, I want to make sure other residents of Cook County know that two more events in the Policy Roadmap Community Conversation program looking for input from constituents will be occurring in April. Click here for further details on the program, including details on the next two events. It also includes a link for submitting ideas that you might have through a survey (especially if you can't make it to one of the events).

President Preckwinkle didn't make it to this event, so attendees may not want to have expectations about her showing up at the future events, either. The host did a good job with this one and had a sense of humor. The host and other staff also showed a lot of enthusiasm and sincerity about realizing the feasible aspects of the discussions, with the emphasis on feasible. Government, politics, and budgets being what they are, who can say how far any of these ideas will really go?

This meeting and the other Conversations make up a part of a process set forth by President Preckwinkle to create a Strategic Framework for the Cook County government. The machinations for this process has very much just started. See the last sentence of the last paragraph to see my expectations for how well I expect this enterprise to succeed and how much I expect it to please constituents. Nonetheless, the fact that the Cook County government puts effort into outreach towards its constituency to get input on the process feels heartening.

In a Powerpoint presentation, the host presented the following goals to the Policy Roadmap:

  • Craft one comprehensive plan that includes the integration of existing and new priorities
  • Raise awareness about who we are as a County, what we do and how our work impacts residents
  • Ensure that we have a plan to achieve our goals with intention
  • Reflect your ideas and suggestions for services that are important or need improvement
  • Make the plan transparent and accountable: it will be made available to the public
These Community Conversations meetings likely focus on goal four from the list above. The majority of the meeting involved breaking out into groups for us residents/constituents to express our thoughts on the shortcomings of the Cook County government regarding the following categories (copied from Powerpoint presentation):

  • Criminal Justice (Safe and Thriving Communities): Community Safety
  • Health and Wellness (Healthy Communities): Healthcare, Human Services and Service Delivery including Employee Health and Wellness
  • Economic Vitality (Vital Communities): Inclusive Growth, Economic Development and Workforce Development
  • Environmental Justice (Sustainable Communities): Clean Energy and Environmental Protection
  • Public Infrastructure & Assets (Smart Communities): Managing Public Assets, Technological Infrastructure and Roads and Bridges Infrastructure
  • Operational Stewardship (Open Communities): Financial Health, Transparency and Accountability, Customer Service, Engaged Workforce that is Diverse, Culturally Responsive and High-Performing
The first thing that stuck out to me occurred at the beginning of the event. The host introduced herself then asked everyone else in the room to introduce themselves. A lot of people in the room introduced themselves as part of the Cook County government or as representing some type of community organization that likely looked to influence the government. Out of around twenty of us, I think only three or four of us announced our names without listing representation of an organization.

Introducing myself without an organization attached at that point and introducing myself in a break out group as a "private citizen" met with positive reaction, which surprised me. The host and the leader of one of the groups seemed to smile a little more and perk up a bit, giving off the sense that they had more interest in the course of events. I could be reading more into those interactions than reality, but I'll stick to my perception (especially considering I originally thought the government and organizations didn't want novices involved, thinking the novices would just get in the way of getting things done).

I may have disappointed the leader of the first break out group I participated in. At the end of the break out discussions, someone in each group would provide a quick summary to the rest of the meeting. The group leader wanted me to make the announcement, but I refused. I used the excuse that I felt a bit too tired (I was), but I also felt a little shy and uncomfortable.

  • I don't really have the hang of this whole government or political thing
  • Only knew one other person in the room
  • Haven't really done in public speaking in awhile
  • I didn't have that sense of inevitability that something needs to get done so I might as well do it
Maybe sometime later when I get more involved in these types of things and get back into the hang of speaking with strangers and putting myself out there, I'll put myself out there more.

The smaller break out groups didn't really intimidate me much, but I also had time to feel out the group before breaking into the discussion. Comparably, I didn't have much sense about the rest of the room. Associations of heated political discussions in my head could have also contributed to my hesitation of presenting myself to a large room of politically involved people (though some day I really need to get over myself on this aspect since I want to make the world better).

I don't think the group leader asked me to present just because of my status as private citizen, either. Even though I took a few minutes to enter the conversation, I had some good ideas. A lot of my input was more

  • "Yeah, that would be cool"
  • "I never knew we had that going on or we had these things in Cook County"
  • Relating some experience I had since moving to Chicago about twelve years ago
  • some questions about the availibility of a few services
I said very little on shortcomings since I didn't and don't have any in mind.

The above happened in the Environmental Justice group, and honestly, other than recycling, being a conscious consumer, and possibly commuting on a bike every chance I get, I don't see myself having much influence or even context on the matter, though I have interest in learning more. I guess from my input and reactions, though, it became clear to a staff member of the Cook County Forest Preserve that they need to do more to promote their activities, their locations, and frankly, their existence, to the public. The same goes for other programs that the Cook County government has for addressing environmental concerns.

When the group leader asked for any ideas how to actually promote these things, we had few ideas. One person mentioned putting something on tax bills (but that struck me as a little classist/elitist since only property owners would get the tax bill, but promotion is promotion). I might have but might not have suggested promoting on public transportation, both in the vehicles and at stations.

This part of the conversation led me back to wondering how to successfully promote and reach out to people these days as we possibly

  • Become more atomized
  • Socialize more online
  • End up doing more things on a solitary basis rather than through interaction with other people
Which leads me to ask:

  • Do advertisements work reliably?
  • Do they have the personal touch needed?
  • Does the Internet of today provide the local promotions needed?
  • Do people pay enough attention to advertising in the first place?
  • Have people become so cynical of government, politics, media, and just society, in general, that they may not pay as much attention as needed?
The next break out group, Economic Vitality (Vital Communities), had a different chemistry compared to the first one. The group leader had something of a strange way of running things. He expressed his opinions then mentioned that since he was a leader, he couldn't just write down his ideas. The ideas that he wrote down had to come from us. This leader definitely felt like he wanted to steer the conversation into certain directions by presenting his ideas then saying that he couldn't write them down on his pad of paper to take back to the Cook County government.

Other than the leader and me, we had two other men in the group. We all presented some ideas and had some interesting conversations about them all. Oddly, though, about three quarters of the way through the break out session, the other two guys got into a conversation about something off topic. It didn't bother me. The phenomena unfolding in front of me fascinated me more than anything.

We had come up with some interesting ideas but ran out of steam, and the leader of this group seemed more interested in steering the conversation more toward his ideas than to encourage the group to come up with the ideas. Unlike the Environmental Justice group with group leaders pretty much asking the same question and requesting elaborations on shortcomings of the Cook County government, and the participants staying on topic and feeling energized, the Economic Vitality group with a leader steering the conversation didn't always stay on topic and didn't always stay energized. The group dynamic fascinated me.

At one point, though, one of the other group members in the Economic Vitality group, someone involved in a community organization, complimented me on having good ideas. I don't remember the context. It might have happened at one of the points where I got self conscious in the discussion. I frequently have this reaction while in group interaction, thinking that I might have been hogging time then pull back to try giving someone else the floor to contribute their own ideas. I have plenty of ideas, especially in this category, but I don't want to silence anyone else's voice (though to be frank, the other two participants were black, I'm white, and I didn't want my perceived social privilege to quiet anyone else's voices). Nonetheless, getting that compliment from someone who I perceived as having experience in this political/governmental realm gave me a little boost of confidence.

This Community Conversation event won't provide any immediate or even medium term results. The host of the event anticipates that they'll have a Policy Roadmap set up and shared with the public by the end of Fall 2018. Even then, though, as mentioned above:

  • Money
  • Politics
  • Government
By the time the process goes from ideas to execution, the end result can look little like the ideas. So many other people and interests get involved that things get diluted because all the different interests get balanced against each other. If good results come of this, great! If not, it's politics and government that we're used to.

My big personal takeaway, though: Sometimes our governments want to hear from us private citizens outside of elections, maybe even community organizations want more private citizens involved. Just the pleasant surprise and attempts by some of the officials and staff at this event to get me more involved showed me this.

The fact that this event occurred in the first place shows an attempt to get private citizens involved, even though it resulted in a lot of community organization representatives showing up. Still, a couple of those representatives wanted me to get involved, too, complimenting me on my ideas and encouraging me to speak up more. We might like to think that all this governmental and political stuff focuses too much on influence peddling and power grabbing, but sometimes, maybe even a lot of the time, our governments and politicians sincerely reach out to us to get involved.

Not to say that this event always felt like a completely selfless, altruistic exercise to work out ideas and thoughts. Some networking occurred. People exchanged business cards. I even got a couple business cards. Next time I should have some cards ready to hand off/exchange.

For the most part, though, at least 80% of the business cards handed off came from employees of the Cook County government reaching out to constituents and who wanted to make
  • Themselves available to provide additional information
  • Help the public access services provided by Cook County
  • Or even asking people to contact him with their ideas about shortcomings and thoughts on how to improve things on a day-to-day level
So, yeah, maybe a little influence peddling occurred at the event, but I mostly saw people sincerely trying to improve things.

That's where we, as private citizens, come in. It didn't take me much work to get involved here. A couple weeks ago, at the end of the week in which the Illinois Primary Elections for 2018 occurred or the week after that, I decided to follow my elected officials on Facebook and Twitter. I have little ambition for public office, but I want to make the world better and a major way I see doing that is

  • Helping good people get into office
  • Maybe influencing political parties and government offices to get more involved with everyday people
  • Engaging in more outreach to them
(Though I've lived a fairly uninteresting life, I don't want to go through or put my closest family through the close scrutinity involved in an election.)

Very soon after I joined President Preckwinkle's Facebook group, I saw the announcement for the Community Conversation event. I debated going to it for a little bit since I have a lot to do then decided to go the night before. To make the world better and improve the connection of government/politicians with the public, I needed to go, I needed to get involved. So I went. Remember me mentioning that feeling that something needs to happen encourages me to say "Screw it" then do what needs doing?

And I think everyone in the United States and the world, where it's feasible and not life and limb risking, should do the same.

  1. Go onto the social media of your choice
  2. Follow your public officials
  3. Follow the politicians that you think will make a difference
  4. Pay attention to their posts
  5. Interact with them where and when needed on social media
  6. When you see announcements for public events like this Community Conversation, go and get involved!
I think this is especially the case for people who complain about politicians in office, that they don't trust the government, that they don't think their vote matters, etc. etc. Stop being cynical and get involved.

Because you never know, they might actually listen to you and take you seriously. Apparently a couple people did at an event that I went to. At least two of them were staffers for the government that perked up and might have even felt inspired about a private citizen getting involved. Maybe they felt that their initiative actually would have the voice of people involved, and our governments could become a government by the people, for the people.

And to our government officials, have more conversations and town meetings like this. Listen to your constituents. Even you Federal elected officials. Your lack of outreach has had a lot to do with enabling the populous to put Trump into office. And when possible, local, State, and Federal officials shouldn't hesitate to coordinate town meetings and conversations with their constituents. Don't just do it when we have elections coming up, do it as much as you can!

The same goes to people thinking about running for office or campaigning for office. Reach out to the consituents. Set up these types of meetings. Get them involved. Inspire your potential constituents. Embolden your potential constituents into action. Get them to think that it's only natural for you to get into office because you're attending to the needs of the area, the state, the country, the world, and to them. Make it so they have a hard time eliminating themselves from participating through selection bias. Help them feel welcomed into the process, not alienated. Engage them!

Get involved and involve others. Be the change you want to be and encourage others to become change. Help make the world a better place and embolden others to do the same. Even little old you can make a difference. I believe in you. Believe in yourself.

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Sunday, March 18, 2018

For the Illinoisian's: Check Out 1IL and Think About Contributing to the Kickstarter

Just because I think this is a worthy, and hopefully someone interested will stumble on 1IL here rather than anywhere else:

If you like what you see here and in the past and want to free me up for more, support my endeavors by Buying Me a Coffee!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

An Act of Civic Responsibility ACCOMPLISHED! I Voted. You Should, Too. And Some Twittervism

Only a little more than a month has passed since I last posted, but it feels like it forever. I guess it feels that way because we find ourselves in an existential crisis of what our country means thanks to electing a cult of personality into the White House.

It's not 100% bad, though. The Blue and Progressive waves feel heartening. If they prove successful, hopefully we can keep them going, continue the activism and momentum for local and State Democratic campaigns and action (though I'm disappointed that my State House and Senate Democratic elections didn't have any contenders for the incumbents. I want people in those offices to fight good against gerrymandering and dividing up Illinois districts in the way that best represents the people of those districts).

Today, I voted and man, there were a lot of candidates! After watching Thor Ragnorak with Michi, I started in on researching the candidates. Stopped researching at about 12:30 this morning then got up at about 11 AM this morning. Start researching again around 12:30 afternoon and ended up about 4:35ish. That gave me about 20 minutes to walk a couple blocks to the library for the early voting. I worried about not making it in time, but I did, and I overheard one of the Election Officials say that they weren't closing until everyone who showed up gets to vote. That reassures me.

Part of me wants to post who I voted for and another part of me doesn't want to. Part of me wants to throw up some of these candidates in support or at least to say that they're better than the other ones. But another part of me doesn't want to add to a "poll fire" of giving other voters the sense of security that the candidate they want to vote for has support and has a good chance of winning, so they're vote isn't needed. I know that I'm just one voter, not a "scientific" poll, but I don't want to contribute to that kind of security people might adopt. Frankly, part of me beliees this might have happened in past elections.

Yes, I want the public to feel insecure about the election, insecure enough to get out there and vote. About 50% of our electorate didn't vote in the 2016 Election. If everyone in that 50% made their one vote, it could have made a huge difference and might have prevented the national mess that we find ourselves in.

I will acknowledge that some of that 50% might be counted as voted because of voter suppression, and that's an example of injustice. But the people who likely wouldn't have been suppressed, if you didn't vote, I believe you should have and regret that you didn't. Even if you think the options aren't great or even that you don't think that any candidates will affect your experience of this American life, our current Federal government proves that the options can be worse than you think, that your experience can get worse, AND seriously, there are other people who will be affected if we let someone like [45] get into our offices again. More than likely, we will have a less worse option or even an option that is OK instead of THE WORST.

So everyone in the United States: Get out there in and vote in your state's primaries and get ready to vote in the General Elections in November. We are crafting the character and fabric of our neighborhoods, our villages, towns, and cities, our counties, our states, our country, and our world. This is the least that we can do for the sake of justice, sanity, peace, civilization, and prosperity.

As for the rest of life and future expectations of the blog, things still remain hectic. Work has remained crazy, which should calm down once we reach the summer. Taxes has been another hang up on me "filing" entries but frankly, I haven't addressed them as studiously as I would like. After reviewing some facts about taxes, though, I've realized that I don't have to be as studious. I don't believe my family's charitable donations and stuff like that will even reach our standard deduction, so there's no point in gathering all those records together. I will continue making donations and such, but the two of us can't realistically afford to make enough deductible contributions to compete with the standard deduction (especially considering the increased standard deduction starting this year).

But I'll let y'all in on something of a NOT SECRET that I need to promote more often: the more "coffee" you buy me, the more chance I have of reaching a point to "filing" more blog entries and even getting to work more on my creative endeavors and possibly more activism. I doubt those coffee purchases will get me my "creative time license" tomorrow, next month, or even next year or two, but a person can dream!

All that being said, have some Twittervism! I didn't even plan to write so much in this supposed intro!

If you like what you see here and in the past and want to free me up for more, support my endeavors by Buying Me a Coffee!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Poking Head Above Surface to Provide Some Twittervism & Update

The day job has started to calm down a little, and I've made some progress at putting together a spreadsheet to "automate" some major compliance reporting. Most of my advances in developing that spreadsheet have occurred during after hour periods, though, so now I just have a better ability to leave work "on time". Nonetheless, a lot of random pop up "emergencies" occur and the workload still remains in the high volume area. I expect it to go down within the next few weeks to a month or so, though, then I should do fine until probably October.

I've also done good with some resolutions on spreadsheeting stuff at home. Honestly, though, I could do without spreadsheeting for at least week (though I doubt any luck will come of that wish). At some point this week, I dreamt about spreadsheeting, which probably ended up being one of my most frustrating dreams, EVER!

I still have plenty of stuff that I need to address for family and home, though, so I still have no prediction for when a good, thoughtful entry will occur. I point a lot of blame on getting stuff together for 2017 income tax filing, but I have some other stuff that needs to get addressed, too.

Until then, though, how about some Twittervism?

If you like what you see here and in the past and want to free me up for more, support my endeavors by Buying Me a Coffee!

Sunday, February 04, 2018

A Journey to Epiphany (that still requires more analysis)

The end of January got busy. I want to get my epiphany out then take a short hiatus to address a few things. If my Twittervism remains active, I’ll post them. I also might post something if I get worked up. Other than that, though, I plan to focus on home and family stuff that needs attention.

After getting home from the "Int'l Solidarity First! Honduras; Philippines, Antiwar Movement" forum, I got into some research that lasted on and off throughout the rest of the weekend then peaked in The Epiphany on Sunday. It revolved around my wondering why people do horribly divisive greedy behavior in the face that more fellowship with other humans has more potential for happiness and my mulling over the image of neo-mercantilist colonialist neoliberalism painted at the forum.

For the life of me, I won't accept greed or power hungriness as enough of a reason. If I did, it wouldn't support people out there that seek good to blossom in the world because it makes things better. Though I may crticize the guy from Answer! who presented at the forum of vanguardism, I have to believe that not everyone in the world seeks power, money, and influence for the sake of those things, as a primary driver. Using this argument against those in power logically leads to even those who seek good would eventually fall into evil when they do come into power (which we do have examples of in the world).

But what about those selfless examples in the world and throughout history that engage in action out of the goodness of their hearts and even seek to do so without any gain for themselves or even at great cost? We have numerous examples of such people throughout history and, dare I say it, in our stories.

I also don't follow the dictum of "doing good for the sake of doing good" or "because it's the right thing to do." I don't believe we have an amazing inborn moral compass inside us that pings us if we do bad. I remain fairly agnostic about a divine authority or permanence of morality. These dictums feel too simple to me.

I may argue against motivations for greed, power, and selfishness, but I believe, on some level, doing good benefits us, and it does benefit us through social and biological awards because doing good for the world outside us will motivate the outside world to give us pleasant and agreeable feedback in the proper circumstances. Even in less than ideal circumstances in which greed, selfishness, and power mongering have dominance, I believe consistent, longer term rewards can come to the person doing good, even for a martyr that ends up being sacrificed or disgraced.

But before striking out for the good, though, and to try taking action to help against the powers of greed, selfishness, and powermongering, I feel the need to understand what can possibly motivate humans to go there, especially in the case of an essay that I've been working on for more than ten years going. A lot of the difficulty for this essay has been to understand the social environment of this one guy who went from minister of 10 or so years then turned activist socialist reformer that went as far as to settle his own utopian community that failed about 5 years later.

This man was George Ripley, a Unitarian minister and also a member of the Transcendentalist Club with Ralph Waldo Emerson back in the 1830's. He could have had a pretty cushy life as a minister. His congregation liked him. The Unitarian ministry had a pretty good hold of the religious communities in Boston and Cambridge. Even with immigrants coming in, Catholicism and other religions making inroads into the two cities, and poltical tides of government making decisions that didn't necessarily put the "religious establishment" as prime anymore, the Unitarian church wouldn't lose their influence of those cities within a decade or two.

In some ways, Ripley saw this evolution and argued for initiatives to make Unitarianism more attractive to potential congregants, considering his heated pamphlet wars with the "Unitarian pope", Andrews Norton. These pamphlet wars instead came more from his disposition to better society for the common people rather than solely seeking to increase the number of worshippers and the footprint of the Unitarian church.

If anything, Ripley saw that the Unitarian church should have the goal of bettering society for the common people as part of its makeup, not as a vehicle for individual powermongering and influence building. This motivation of his becomes apparent when reading his later sermons, whether the one in which he urges his congregants to help the poor because the burdens and hardships of others around the church represents the state of the congregants, society, and their souls, especially since the congregants had fairly good lives and didn't do anything to spread the good state of things.

Ripley eventually resigned his post as minister because his congregation didn't have the motivation to do better. The congregation liked him and felt that he challenged them in a good way, and they wanted him to stay on as minister. His congregation had no desire to help those who had true material needs that the needy couldn't meet through their own efforts. Despite the fact that he could have led a good life as their minister, at least for probably another decade or two, his conscience would not let him stand aside while society and nations ground down the lives and souls of people.

Brook Farm, Ripley's utopian community, didn't amount too much more than a historical community and a really good memory for some young students that took its curriculum and some other community members that enjoyed the company of others. Brook Farm can also provide some level of instance of a utopian experiment for someone like me to try drawing some useful meaning or lesson from it (with much frustration). For Ripley, though, it broke him and destroyed much of his faith in humanity. He led a comfortable life afterward and engaged in literary jobs that he enjoyed, but he lived mostly a private life that didn't feel too concerned about the welfare of society and the people that made it up.

I don't know the personal histories or situations of the people in Ripley's congregation, but I assume that Ripley did. He likely had a good idea of how much time and resources they had to spare for the relief of the burdens and hardship of those less well off. As minister, I bet he knew a good many of them well. Despite his belief in their ability to do more, they refused to do so. They chose friendly complacency (though the church was near South Boston around the time that the Irish began to settle into Boston, including Catholic churches, so I have little problem believing that their complacency came from some prejudice and xenophobia).

The "more contemporaneous" social activist, Martin Luther King Jr., had a couple things to say about this kind of inaction that strikes a little more closer to the heart:

"He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it."


"First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to 'order' than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says 'I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action;' who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a 'more convenient season.'

Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection."

Another example in the historical time of George Ripley and Massachusetts that touches upon my difficulty with trying to understand greedy evil or good fellowship comes from Massachusetts politicians. The Federalists than the Whigs held the power in Massachusetts during that time, and they did a lot to build up industries and trade in Massachusetts while many others in the United States focused on agriculture.

Politicians and intelligentsia that supported industry tended to believe in what we'd consider "trickle down economics" these days. By building up total wealth, it would drop down to workers and others without a ton of wealth just by virtue of the vast amounts of wealth. It would grow industry, and with industry comes work, and with work comes wealth for all. Sound familiar? Another water-based metaphor: raising the water level will lift everyone up.

A couple weeks ago or so, I learned that Rockefeller pushed hard for Prohibition. He believed that alcohol contributed a lot to keeping people from being industrious while increasing crime. Only after Prohibition did he and many others with power see that restricting alcohol increased crime even further and in savagery. And if crime and smuggling can be seen as industry, then I guess Rockefeller had his finger on the pulse of the People. . .but I don't think that's the case.

Rockefeller and the many others that railed against alcohol and pushed for Prohibition didn't take an original stance. The Massachusetts clergy and politicians in the first half the 1800's often blamed the laziness and drinking habits of the laborers and common people for industry not being strong. They even argued that by making laborers work long hours, it would instill better morals because it would keep the laborers busy and not allow them the time to be idle and engage in drinking, being abusive to their families, and other things detrimental to society. After all, "idle hands are the devil's workshop."

Who cares that the wealthy could engage in such horrible behavior and argue that they pretty much lived on a different moral plane (their reputation would be hurt by such behavior rather than they should just be good)? Who cares that the wealthy would erect private libraries, put up colleges like Harvard, support hospitals, and other "altrustic," charitable activities, but the common people couldn't benefit from them. Instead, they received and recriminations that they should work long hours and don't do all these horrible things because it's causing them to be poor.

Not to say that such horrible things aren't horrible, but Boston and Cambridge didn't have much social mobility back then. Andrews Norton, the Unitarian pope, even argued with Ripley that the common people shouldn't question or learn to think because it would lead to acting immorally. What did it even matter, anyway, because their boss's made them work instead of going to church where the Unitarian ministry supposedly preached self culture and that if someone worked hard, remained attentive, and tried to learn when they could, they could make something of themselves.

Albeit, the economics of that time gets complicated. On the federal level, Andrew Jackson played games with the fiscal system, dismantled the Second Bank of the United States (pretty much the Fed at that time), and other things that caused a lot of economic turmoil. Tariffs, which were used to pay for debts from the Revolutionary War, ended at some point. Tariffs had actually bolstered wages since tariffs encouraged consumers to purchase goods and products from domestic sources rather than cheaper ones from foreign sources. Since the end of tariffs caused foreign goods to go down in price, people bought from foreign sources. To more agrarian parts of the country, it probably helped them, but in a region of the country that depended on industry, the pain of a recession from these activities would hit eastern Massachusetts especially hard.

Massachusetts had a labor movement soon after industry came to the state, and probably even before that. For some time, though, when industry first came or before that, Massachusetts didn't have a big population while it had plenty of work, whether in an internal agrarian economy or for industrial factories. The labor market benefited workers. At one point, workers could switch between factories or even come and go as they pleased and get paid a lot, simply because their was more work than laborers. If an industrialist or business owner wanted to get something made to sell, they needed to keep the labor pool happy enough and paid enough to make the wares.

With the cotton gin, other industrial innovations, immigration, other forms of population growth, and the federal-level politics, labor conditions got worse and the labor movements fought to better those conditions, whether to increase safety, reduce the amount of hours of work (can you imagine working in a factory for 12-14 hours per week?), fight against child labor, and for many other reasons I'm probably not aware of, tensions grew between common people/labor movements and the wealthy/industrialists, politicians supported by the wealthy, and the intelligentsia that supported them, including the Unitarian establishment that mingled with the upper classes.

I remember that one or two of the books I've read to accumulate this knowledge had plenty to say about the perspective of the upper classes and politicians of Massachusetts at that time. A political speech quoted at the end of it especially sticks in my head. It had something to do with the lower classes not having enough gratitude and weren't thankful enough to just work and accept the "good things" that they were getting in life. They had to agitate and had to protest and strike to try improving their side of the labor deal, when they should be happy with what they had and feel grateful (sounds familiar, doesn't it? (skip ahead to the 2 minute mark if you don't want to see everything before that)). The quoted part especially struck me because it came from a politician that other people at that point in history from many walks of life praised.

Unfortunately, I can't name that politician because I don't have the book that has the quote. I must have borrowed it from the library. I forget the title of the book and everything. At this point, I wouldn't even know how to start finding the book. . ..

The memory remains strong, though, and I latched onto it that Sunday. I combed through what books I have from that time years ago when I engaged in intense research because they had some bits about the two politicians from that time that stick in my head, Daniel Webster and Edward Everett.

In my heart, I believe that Webster made the speech quoted in that book. That Sunday, I tried finding things by the both of them in relation to labor because the books in my current inventory mentioned them quite a bit in connection with the establishment views of labor. With Webster, I found some interesting texts, but one struck out in which he praised the working class then in the last quarter page, last few paragraphs took a sudden change of tone in which he struck out at lazy people who got drunk all the time and that it was BAD! I have the feeling he wanted to paint an ugly picture of the labor movement.

I read Edward Everett's "A Lecture on the Working Men's Party". The text of the lecture didn't really stick in my head, but the characterization of the lecture in William Hartford's Money, Morals, and Politics: Massachusetts in the Age of the Boston Associates strikes me as accurate as to how I feel about the lecture. Everett pretty much All Lives Mattered labor and work. To him, everyone but the immoral and indolent work, so the Working Men's Party shouldn't exist to separate themselves from everyone else because it's an insult to everyone else. To go a little further, though, I guess it also felt like an attempt to appease agitators and get them to calm down from the all the agitation, just trying to calm them down in a nice way.

Suffice to say, I couldn't find any deep dive into either the politicians to present what they really believed, their justifications for believing, and how they could believe that they stood up for the common person, the laborer. The lack of anything useful from them or any other writer about them left me back at square one, except a little bit more angry. It frustrated me that I couldn't figure things out.

These two politicians made me even more angry, though, because they believed they knew better and entitled about everything, and, if anything, they felt that they just had to explain to the non-activist laborers and working class that they just needed to find pride and enjoyment through their labor. Heck, these two politicians didn't sound that different from today's Republicans just telling people that if they stick to their morals, everything will turn out well and people can find fulfillment in their character, enough so that their physical state won't matter. "Let us run things, and we'll get you good jobs!"

And at some point, in the depths of frustration, the epiphany hit me: Humans are still territorial creatures, maybe not territory over land, but territory over power, influence, money, and people. Humans are still animals. One of the most universal features of the wildlife shows is animals protecting territory and fighting over reproductive domains. Animals of the same species will generally leave each other alone and might even work together but once they threaten each other's domains, the teeth and claws come out, the fighting starts, and the fight ends when one of the adversaries surrenders and retreats or one of them dies. And sometimes, that fight happens with the potential mate.

This epiphany really struck me. Look at the sexual improprieties that have run wild throughout human history, White Supremacy, especially in the time after the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement (a time span when they took pictures of lynchings and sold them as postcards!), mercantilism, colonialism, neoliberalism, political leaders gaining and keeping power, corporate leaders building and building, cults, corporate politics, Gamergate, Puppies in science fiction pissing all over awards because SJW's are taking away eyeballs, police killing black men and woman, black people representing a disproportionate amount of the prison population, the current government of the United States fighting amongst itself, giving the rich massive tax cuts while doing very little for the middle and lower classes, Charlottesville, dictators like Stalin, Hitler and World War II.

The list goes on and on and on, but a natural, animal instinct for gaining domain over territories of power, money, influence, and people feels like one of the most intuitive factors for explaining why people can choose the evil of greedy, selfish power instead of using their influence to bring people together and have them grow stronger, more fulfilling bonds. Part of my theory relies on oxytocin, the brain chemical that can pretty much strengthen the power of other neurochemicals that influence and are influence by social interaction.

In the weeks since then, I've tempered this hypothesis and have looked to inject more nuance into it. Having that animal territorial instinct feels like a good stand in for larger, background arguments, especially for those who demonstrate this disposition or become dictators, whether of their states, corporations, or home. The epiphany, however, doesn't seem to address the masses of people who follow along or who are just happy with the middling that they're doing and don't engage in some mass battle to try reaching the top. Vying for power happens to some amount, but I feel like the fabric of all societies would be torn apart by the seams and wouldn't have gotten as "civilized" as they have and whole races of humanity would have been fully destroyed if that were the case. In some other words, I can't find enough intertextual evidence to show territorial pissings as a universal enough manifest or latent primary function of humanity.

I'm finding myself fall back onto terms like moral contagion, moral transference, affirmation. I've experienced the revulsion of seeing someone I couldn't do anything for, someone that did something stupid, or someone facing much hardship. A podcast I listened to once talked about how people try to distance themselves from such things, as if they feared a contagion.

Having such a phenomenon also seems to make some sense to the texts of Ethan Frome's about Hitler and why the German people had followed him at the time along with some understanding as to why people in the US support Trump and the Republicans, though if you look at their policies and actions, they don't help the common people that vote for them. I don't get it, but these common people can feel like they're experiencing the 'success" and "power" as if they had it themselves, much like how I might experience the stresses and pain of someone going through hardship and burdens. Whereas I might shy away from the bad, the supporters of Trump and the Republicans lean in toward the euphoric and confident feelings that Trump and the Republicans try to put out there.

I don't have it all figured out yet. And unfortunately, as I mentioned from the top, I've got a lot of day-to-day personal and home stuff that needs to get addressed. Work has gotten even busier than it had been in December. I don't plan to write much over the next few weeks or months. I might post some Twittervism or if I get some sudden inspiration or anger, but I don't expect to do much. Just too much to do! Until then, I hope I've left enough hearty thought to chew on. Enjoy!

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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Twittervism for Wednesday Night Virtual Dinner

Work kicking my ass this week. I've posted to social media more than I expected. Enjoy some Twittervism.



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