Archive for February, 2012

U.S. Meritocracy

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Since my introduction into the school system as a child I was trained to do work that I would be graded on.  I went through school striving for high marks, which would make my parents smile.  Then, after high school, I entered college as a Division III athlete with an academic scholarship, which was contingent upon the maintenance of a 3.0 GPA or higher.  In between keg stands I hit the books and I was able to maintain my scholarship.

 

After I graduated college I drifted out onto the road for a spell so I could get away from the constraints of academia and my community.  I worked a bevy of odd jobs, which I showed up to on time and worked hard at, to earn a paycheck at the end of the week. I was making it on my own and the initial thrill of that sustained me for years.   Although I took pride in the fact that I could afford to put food on the table and I had a warm place to sleep, I wondered if I was giving my best contribution to life.  I began to question my existence all over again.  Deep inside I yearned for some parent or teacher to tell me that I was doing the right thing or someone to write a letter grade on my life so I had some certainty.

 

Then after a four year hiatus from academics I entered graduate school and I realized that receiving good grades do give one a warm feeling of accomplishment.  But when the euphoria wore off I was just a guy with a grade on a paper that was not a reflection of my actual contribution I was making to society or a true mark of my own personal development.  I started to wonder why I needed someone else to place a judgment on my efforts.  I came to the conclusion that I was conditioned by a meritocracy.  In other words, I was brought along just like an animal that is trained to do tricks, when I did something that was valued by my superiors I was rewarded with grades, awards, or money.  But this was not necessarily a reflection of my true value.  A system of rewards seems to be an efficient way to structure a society until one digs beneath the surface.

 

Since this is a blog post I will keep my explanation of the pitfalls of a meritocracy briefly, with a single example.  An archetype that exemplifies this problem from our society is the political pundit like Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck or Ann Coulter type on T.V.  For example Ann Coulter routinely goes on insane rants when she says hurtful things like the 9/11 widows were, “enjoying their husbands’ death.”  Forcing me to ask myself, “No human being can really believe this outlandish stuff, can they?”  Yet, Ann Coulter has made a living from these kinds of shocking statements.  Why?

 

She’s obviously brash, but in a calculated way. She knows that if she shapes her opinions with the wind blown by the establishment she will be praised and rewarded.  She will sell her books and be invited on numerous shows enabling her to make a small fortune.  She is the Man’s lapdog.  This creates a society where narcissistic bootlickers collect credentials and fill positions of importance of a society, and as a result, they maintain the current system of inequality.  It is obvious if she said something that was detrimental to the establishment did not agree with she would banished from television and her career would implode.  Therefore, through the U.S. meritocracy she has carved out a niche for herself to have measurable success within the system.

 

However, if an individual allows the system to define their life’s path because they spend their time working to garner ordained success then is that individual following their true path?  Success is more than straight-As, plaques on the wall or enough money to buy a new car.  It seems to me that each individual must define it for themselves.  It is an internal gauge of personal progress that is developed over time, which lies in the ability to do what one believes to be right in a given situation without bending to preconceived societal standards as long as it is not a detriment to the other inhabitants of Earth.

 

 

Loren

Stunned by History I was Never Taught.

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

I studied history in college, but I never learned about this.  I watched “SLAVERY by Another Name” the other night on PBS.  It blew my mind and I feel like somebody stole something from me because I was never taught this in school.  This documentary is based on a book written by Douglas A. Blackmon, who was once a  senior editor for The Wall Street Journal and a contributing editor for the Washington Post.  This movie is about the continuing enslavement of black Americans in the south between the end of the Civil War and WWII.  I learned about convict leasing and peonage, both of which are slavery by another name as the title states.  Follow the link below to watch this documentary:

 

http://www.pbs.org/tpt/slavery-by-another-name/watch/

 

 

If you have the chance, please watch this movie and enlighten yourself.  It will be the best hour and a half history lesson you have ever had.  You will see how cities, states, and the federal government allowed African Americans to be jailed, mostly  unjustly, and while serving time they were rented by private industry to do hard physical labor.  You will see how private citizens were able to put black people in debt, often times under false pretenses, and then essentially own them because of the structure of debt laws.

 

I was shocked.  This needs to be taught at every level of education.  Watch, learn, and think.

 

Randall

Success Needs to be Redefined

Monday, February 20th, 2012

We are taught that if you stay in school, work hard, and play by the rules you can be successful.   But what is success?  Most people think it means having a lot of things – things like money, clothes, cell phones, assets etc…the American Dream.

 

But how many people do you know that work there asses off and never get ahead?  Just working hard is not enough, so isn’t the idea that hard work leads to success kinda bullshit?  During the birth of America it was a free-for-all and there was much wealth to be gotten.  This continued and made America the world’s economic superpower.

 

But wealth can not continually be created.  At some point the resources that create wealth will be completely depleted. The idea that wealth brings happiness will inevitably make everyone unhappy because there will not be “enough” to go around.

 

Therefore, we need to change our idea of what it means to be successful.  I would rather be happy and poor instead of rich and moderately happy.

 

 We need to start talking about happiness and satisfaction as the defining characteristics of success.  Then we need to figure out a way for everyone to pursue happiness and release themselves from the mind enslavement that is the pursuit of wealth.

 

Randall

Lessons from the Republican Primary

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

All I have learned from this Republican primary is that Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum are huge douchebags with very little understanding of how the common man lives.  And except for his populist rhetoric, Barack Obama doesn’t seem much better when one considers his close ties to the financial establishment, his frequent drone strikes that routinely kill civilians, and his failure to make good on many of his campaign promises.

 

But his rhetoric is so good that I catch myself being almost mesmerized by what he says.  He has a polished speaking style that features an underlying tone of hope that was a central focus of his initial campaign.   Although in many ways, he has not delivered.  Inevitably, it will be a vote for the lesser of two evils at the polls this year.  It appears that our choice in 2012 will be a reflection of a system that is badly damaged, if not broken. 

 

However, to fix something so deeply flawed as the U.S. political system is a task so daunting one does not know where to begin.  I can’t help but remember what a liquored-up Australian once told me when I was bartending in San Francisco, “No matter who you vote for, you’re just going to end up with a dirty politician.”  What else can we do?

Don’t Set Standards for Others

Friday, February 10th, 2012

This is not a sports blog, but I will use a sports example here to make a point.  I am a fan of the NFL.  I thought the Super Bowl was a great game this year, but I was disappointed that the Patriots lost.  After that loss the Patriots had a party.  It was planned party whether they won or lost.  I don’t know if they all attended or what the atmosphere was like after losing the Super Bowl, but I know one person has been getting criticized for his behavior.  Second year pro Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots record setting  tight end, was seen dancing and drinking and having a good old time.  Many people have  publicly denounced him and questioned his heart.  They think he should be more humble and reserved after losing the Super Bowl.  Have you ever had a bad day at work?  Sure, everybody has.  Many of us work very hard and we like to unwind when work is over.  We should not hold athletes, or anybody else, to a different standard than we hold ourselves.  If its okay for me to go out and party and get drunk after a bad day at work than who am I to say that someone else should not do the same.  You are destined to be disappointed in someone if you hold them to a different standard than you hold yourself.  Let people enjoy their lives and don’t judge them on things that you do yourself.

Thin Slicing Elections

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

I wanted to touch on Loren’s last post regarding decision making, in regards to electing our leaders.  Thin slicing is basically making snap decisions often times on the unconscious level, which you can read about more in a book called Blink written by Malcolm Gladwell.  Call it intuition or following your gut, but we all do this on some level every day.  In this book you will see many example of how people can often make correct decisions without even knowing why.

 

The political sphere in America is getting ever more divisive.  The Republican party is going through its primaries right now in order to select the man who will run against President Obama.  It has been pretty brutal as far as negative politics go, with Romney and Gingrich going hard at eachother.  Yet somehow after one is picked, the party no doubt will rally behind the winner.  Then the negative media storm will really get going when the democrats and republicans pull out all the dirty little tricks in the national election.  American elections have come down to TV ads, lies and propaganda.

 

I believe we need people with character in elected positions.  Our two party system creates an environment where unscrupulous people can rise to power.  There is money in our two parties and this money can buy elections.  It may not be possible at this point, but imagine electing people based on you gut instinct.  I believe we would elect a person with a higher quality of character if we had a system where we didn’t have to hear stupid ads and listen to pointless debates where lies are surely being told, but instead all based our votes on intuition.  Vote on who you think has more character with as little information as possible.

 

This is just something to think about.  I don’t know if this is reasonable, but at least it is an alternative to our ridiculous system of electing of leaders.