Posts tagged: economics
Tim Maly writes:
One of my favourite recurring tropes of AI speculation/singulatarian deep time thinking is mediations on how an evil AI or similar might destroy us. […]
And all I can think is: we already have one of those. It is pretty clear to anyone who’s paying attention that 1. a marketplace regime of firms dedicated to maximizing profit has—broadly speaking—added a lot of value to the world 2. there are a lot of important cases where corporate profit maximization causes harm to humans 3. corporations are—broadly speaking—really good at ensuring that their needs are met.
I don’t think that it’s all that far fetched to suggest that maybe they’re getting better and better at ensuring their needs are met. Pretty much the only thing that the left and right in America can agree on is that moneyed influence has corrupted American politics and yet neither side seems able to do much of anything about it.
Mark Fisher describes the contemporary economy and the precarity it involves as a “Time War” in which more and more work of our time is dedicated to work:
To understand the time-crisis, we only have to compare the current situation with the height of punk and post-punk in the UK and the US. It’s no accident that the efflorescence of punk and post-punk culture happened at a time when cheap and squatted property was available in London and New York. Now, simply to afford to pay rent in either city entails giving up most of your time and energy to work. The delirious rise in property prices over the last twenty years is probably the single most important cause of cultural conservatism in the UK and the US. In the UK, much of the infrastructure which indirectly supported cultural production has been systematically dismantled by successive neoliberal governments. Most of the innovations in British popular music which happened between the 60s and the 90s would have been unthinkable without the indirect funding provided by social housing, unemployment benefit and student grants.
(via Bruce Sterling)
See also: Radical Atheism
The American Conservative, a magazine founded by Pat Buchanan, is running a report calling for an increase of the minimum wage to $10-$12 an hour, nation wide. The report wasn’t written by the magazine’s own staffers, it’s a report from written and originally published by a think tank called The New America Foundation, which I’ve generally associated more with progressive causes than conservatism.
I won’t go into the paper itself here, though I worry that small businesses might not be able to absorb that sort of brunt increase in wages, and I’m hardly a fiscal conservative. What’s interesting to me is this particle edge of the right that seems to be coming around to much of what the left has been saying for some time now (it reminds me of seeing liberals end up as conservatives during the Clinton years and following 9/11).
American Conservative has published a few other pieces that veer into this territory over the past few years, including an article saying that Hispanics don’t commit more crimes than whites, one on the revolt of the richand the co-architect of Reagonomics Bruce Bartlett’s article disavowing Reagonomics, saying that Paul Krugman was right and that the Republican Party has lost touch with reality.
Adam Davidson writes for the New York Times:
Throughout the campaign, President Obama lamented the so-called skills gap and referenced a study claiming that nearly 80 percent of manufacturers have jobs they can’t fill. Mitt Romney made similar claims. The National Association of Manufacturers estimates that there are roughly 600,000 jobs available for whoever has the right set of advanced skills.
Eric Isbister, the C.E.O. of GenMet, a metal-fabricating manufacturer outside Milwaukee, told me that he would hire as many skilled workers as show up at his door. Last year, he received 1,051 applications and found only 25 people who were qualified. He hired all of them, but soon had to fire 15. Part of Isbister’s pickiness, he says, comes from an avoidance of workers with experience in a “union-type job.” Isbister, after all, doesn’t abide by strict work rules and $30-an-hour salaries. At GenMet, the starting pay is $10 an hour. Those with an associate degree can make $15, which can rise to $18 an hour after several years of good performance. From what I understand, a new shift manager at a nearby McDonald’s can earn around $14 an hour.
The secret behind this skills gap is that it’s not a skills gap at all. I spoke to several other factory managers who also confessed that they had a hard time recruiting in-demand workers for $10-an-hour jobs. “It’s hard not to break out laughing,” says Mark Price, a labor economist at the Keystone Research Center, referring to manufacturers complaining about the shortage of skilled workers. “If there’s a skill shortage, there has to be rises in wages,” he says. “It’s basic economics.” After all, according to supply and demand, a shortage of workers with valuable skills should push wages up. Yet according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of skilled jobs has fallen and so have their wages.
Good comment from someone on Hacker News:
I think it is important to note that the fast-food jobs with comparable pay are low level managerial positions, not entry level ones. You can start working for minimum wage at a fast-food job without any previous experience and/or skills. These jobs require very little training, and allow employees to add value almost immediately (and well before promotion to the $15-$20 an hour positions).
Contrast this to the skilled manufacturing jobs which require up front experience. Though many blue collar fields offer entry-level positions with on the job training, apprenticeships, and opportunity for advancement, this doesn’t appear to be common practice in manufacturing. Why not? I think the main reason is that it is very hard for a low skill worker to add value to a manufacturing company. There aren’t any comparable entry-level positions that allow the employee to learn while still being productive.
Because of this, hiring an unskilled employee for the purpose of training them is a huge risk, since it requires a significant investment. And since this industry is already very unstable with razor-thin margins, it’s not something many employers seem willing to do, which is unfortunate.
So maybe the solution is coming up with better training programs, so that manufacturers can hire new employees without taking on such large risks?
Yet another example of alternative currency thriving in a collapsed economy:
What rules the system has are designed to ensure the tems continue “to circulate, and work hard as a currency”, said Christos Pappionannou, a mechanical engineer who runs the network’s website using open-source software.
No one may hold more than 1,200 tems in the account “so people don’t start hoarding; once you reach the top limit you have to start using them.”
And no one may owe more than 300, so people “can’t get into debt, and have to start offering something”.
Businesses that are part of the network are allowed to do transactions partly in tems, and partly in euros; most offer a 50/50 part-exchange.
“We recognise that they have their fixed costs, they have to pay a rent and bills in euros,” said Pappionannou. “You could say that their ‘profit’ might be taken in Tems, to be reinvested in the network.”
Choupis said she thought the network would have grown even faster that it has if people were not so “frozen, in a state of fear. It’s like they’ve been hit over the head with a brick; they’re dizzy. And they’re cautious; they’re still thinking: ‘I need euros, how am I going to pay my bills?’ But as soon as people see how much they can do without money, they’re convinced.”
The real question is not whether these types of systems work during times of economic crisis, but how they can persist once organizations like the World Bank step in to “restore order.”
See also: The New Currency War.
Futurist Douglas Rushkoff, famous for correctly predicting the rise of social media, is trying to convince Craigslist’s Craig Newmark to create “craigbucks.” He thinks it’s the obvious next step in the evolution of money. “People could buy and sell things exclusively on Craigslist using craigbucks,” Rushkoff enthuses. “Sure they’ll want to keep their Visas and their MasterCards, but they’ll want a specialized, alternative form of cash too.”
The idea is not as far-fetched as it may seem. Economists already have a term for this kind of community-specific money; they’re called “complimentary currencies” and they naturally take root when conditions are right. For example, in 2006, a Chinese online social network called QQ produced “QQ coins” that became widely traded, used for almost a billion dollars a year in transactions. Even though the currency was designed just to buy things on the QQ network, other websites started accepting QQ coins for payment of even non-virtual goods, and a black market sprung up to convert QQ coins directly to Yuan. The Chinese government cracked down: They feared that QQ could trigger inflation of the Yuan by increasing the total money supply in China.
I originally wrote this in October 2007 and it was first published in OVO: Money. It has become increasingly relevant.
Since the colonial period, the United States has been fighting to control currency. In fact, this battle was part of the foundation of the country. Prior to 1764, colonists issued “Bills of Credit” to deal with a shortage of hard currency. Some were issued by “land banks” and backed by the value of land. Others were merely promises of credit.  In 1764 the British Parliment passed the Currency Act, which prohibited the use of these Bills of Credit. This caused significant economic hardship for the colonies, and helped set the stage for the Revolution. 
In an 1883 paper called “Ideas for a Science of Good Government,” Peter Cooper wrote (emphasis mine):
After Franklin had explained this [the use of paper money] to the British Government as the real cause of prosperity, they immediately passed laws, forbidding the payment of taxes in that money. This produced such great inconvenience and misery to the people, that it was the principal cause of the Revolution. A far greater reason for a general uprising, than the Tea and Stamp Act, was the taking away of the paper money. 
Although Cooper was in favor of government issued currency, he saw the British outlawing of the Bills of Credit as a problem. He opposed the use of these local currencies, but saw them arising out of a failure of the government: “Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, raised his voice against the curse of the local banks, which were allowed to come into being by the neglect of the Government in the performance of its duty.” 
Today, a host of independent currencies are available: from small and local to big and global, and they are all issued to solve perceived problems with government issued currency. But it appears that the government is none too pleased with this competition.
Activists on both the far left and far right of the political spectrum work to create government independent currency solutions, but it seems that the left tend to prefer local currencies. “Community currency is a tool that can help revitalize local economies by encouraging wealth to stay within a community rather than flowing out,” Susan Meeker-Lowry wrote for Z Magazine. “In many communities around the country people are taking control by creating their own currency. This is completely legal and, as organizers are finding, often very empowering.” 
The Local Exchange Trading System (LETS), developed in British Columbia in the 80s, is one widely used system. LETS does away with the need for a printed money, acting instead as an interest free credit system. Michael Linton, a computer programmer, created LETS to solve a simple problem: community members “had valuable skills they could offer each other yet had no money. He also saw the limitations of a one-on-one barter system. If a plumber wanted the services of an electrician, but the electrician didn’t need plumbing help, the transaction couldn’t take place.” 
LETS solves the problem by issuing credit within the system. In the above example, the plumber would owe a debt to the LETS system, and electrician would be issued credit from the system. The electrician would be able to redeem the credit from another LETS member who is either in debt or wanted credit, and the plumber would be required to make his services available to other LETS members.  Many variations of Linton’s original system have been created, and several “how to” kits and manuals are available for purchase, or to download for free from the Internet. 
Shifting the focus away from the US for a moment: during the Argentine financial crisis, the national currency of Argentina became practically worthless.  To help meet their needs and keep the economy working, many people turned to barter or to local currencies such as the “credito.”  The credito was based, amongst other things, on LETS materials translated into Spanish. Transactions were originally recorded in a notebook, as in LETS, but eventually paper certificates were needed. By 2000, circulation of this currency had reached the equivalent of about $5 million a year. 
Argentina illustrates the usefulness of independent currencies when central banks fail. Local currencies, which tend not to cross state lines, seem not to get much attention from the government. I don’t know of any cases of local currencies being shut down by the government.
Towards a more perfect capitalism
Right wing proponents of alternative currencies, however, tend to favor more global forms of exchange. Advocates of “free banking” propose the dissolution of central banks like the Federal Reserve in favor of private banks issuing competing currencies. 
The founder of the Internet payment solution PayPal, Peter Thiel, envisioned PayPal as a way to create a more free exchange of currency globally. Thiel hoped people in foreign countries with restrictive money export laws could use PayPal to hold their currency in dollars or other more stable foreign currencies, such as the US dollar . But the proprietors of precious metal backed digital currencies like e-Gold and the Liberty Dollar are more even more ambitious.
Thinkers ranging from Ron Paul  to Alan Greenspan  advocate a return to the gold standard. But some entrepreneurs act directly by issuing digital currency backed by gold, silver, or other precious metals.
Dr. Douglas Jackson founded e-gold, the first Internet currency backed 100% by precious metals, in 1996. Jackson cites gold’s stability as a currency and the Internet’s natural openness as the reasons for creating an Internet based gold currency. He believes e-gold is currency perfected: stable and market driven. In an interview in Wired in 2002 he called e-gold “probably the greatest benefit to humanity that’s ever been thought of.” 
The Liberty Dollar, backed mostly by silver but by other precious metals, is sold by National Organization for the Repeal of the Federal Reserve Act and the Internal Revenue Code (NORFED). Founder, and former mint master of the Royal Hawaiian Mint Company, Bernard von NotHaus conceived of the currency to compete head-on with the Federal Reserve:
“For years America was saddled with a slow, poor postal service. Finally, Federal Express brought competition to this heavily subsidized government agency that no one though could change. And it responded and improved noticeably. NORFED emulates this model by bringing a superior product to America’s monetary system, its currency.” 
NORFED offers coins, certificates that look like something like dollar bills, and an Internet backed currency. Coins and certificates are available through “Regional Currency Offices,” and NORFED actively encourages Liberty Dollar enthusiasts to open their own RCOs and recruit others. 
Outside the western left/right political spectrum is the another global cultural force: Islam. While the founders of Pay Pal, e-gold, and NORFED believe themselves to be perfecting capitalism with their digital services, the Islamic founders of e-dinar, who formed a partnership with e-gold and at one point hosted 50% of e-gold’s reserve at their vaults in Dubai, believe they are destroying it. 
The founders of e-dinar are members of the Murabitun movement, a peculiur form of Sufism. Murabitun followers believe that paper money is haram, unlawful, according to Islamic faith. The founder of the Murabitun movement, Sheikh Abdalqadir, says: “A true study of the Qur’an and the Sunna shows us that capitalism will not be abolished on the battlefield but in the marketplace where it is practiced.” 
“Fatwa Concerning the Islamic Prohibition of Using Paper-Money as a Medium of Exchange,” a Murabitun text by Umar Vadillo, states: “After examining all the aspects of paper money, in the Light of the Qur’an and the Sunna, we declare that the use of paper money in any form of exchange is usury and therefore haram” because paper money (and, by extension, credit and debit cards) is “nothing but a pure symbol with no reality attached except the imposition of law.” 
Vidillo says: “You want to be radical? You don’t need to blow up the bank, just burn your bank account. For that you need an alternative. What is the alternative? E-dinar.” 
The current status of e-dinar is a bit mysterious. e-gold used be partners with e-dinar [, but according to e-dinar’s web site e-dinar officially split with e-gold in 2004 after being acquired by an unnamed “Large International Corporation” in 2003. 
The state responds
It would seem, though, that the larger reach of global alternatives lead to larger interventions by the government. Of all the major players in independent currency game, e-gold has probably had the worst legal trouble. “In December 2005, the Secret Service and FBI raided the company’s headquarters and seized roughly $800,000 in assets,” according to the Washington Post.  This lead e-gold to beef up their security measures, even creating new software designed to detect e-gold customers committing crimes.  The new security measures didn’t stop a federal indictment from being leveled against the company in April of 2007. The company was served with 4 indictments, including operating an illegal money transfer operation and money laundering. 
Then, on Wednesday May 9th, 2007 the United States government seized the holdings of 58 e-gold accounts, forcing 48 bars of gold to be redeemed for approximately $77 million dollars. As of this writing, all the funds are still in in the US government’s control pending the outcome of lawsuit filed against e-gold’s parent company.  However, e-gold and its subsidiary Omnipay maintain business as of this writing.
In 2006 The United States Mint issued a press release stating that circulating Liberty Dollars is a federal crime. The press release implies that Liberty Dollars are deceptively similar to US currency, and that NORFED intends them to be used as legal tender.  As of this writing, I am unaware of any case against any persons in the United States for using the Liberty Dollar.
NORFED responded with a civil lawsuit. On March 20, 2007 von NotHaus filed against the US Mint, asking “the court to declare that the use of the Liberty Dollar is not a ‘federal crime,’ as claimed by the U.S. Mint. And the organization further asked the court to enter a permanent injunction against the U.S. Mint requiring it to remove any reference that the use of Liberty Dollars is a federal crime from its website.” [21 As of this writing, the case remains unsettled. But on November 14th, 2007 the situation took another turn: the FBI raided Liberty Dollar on charges of circulating illegal currency, mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering. The affidavit also described Liberty Dollar as a “multi-level marketing scheme.” 
Von NotHaus has described the raid as “a direct assault against the US Constitution and your right to own and use gold and silver in any way you chose” and dismissed the mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering charges as fantasy. 
Pay Pal, eventually burdened with legal problems, banned the use of PayPal for gambling, pornography, and several other uses in 2004. 
It is important to note that e-gold and NORFED may well be guilty of the crimes it has been charged with, it remains to be seen how they will come out in court. NORFED and e-gold have many competitors, so the international, gold back Internet currency business continues. However, the struggles of these companies, and the fact that they are being held liable for what their customers use their services for, is illustrative of the control the US government exerts over currency. If the Federal Reserve were held accountable every time legal tender were used in criminal transactions, surely the Fed would have been shut down by now. Why are companies like e-gold held to a different standard? Why are they asked to act as de facto law enforcement?
And all of this raises the question: why is there such a demand for alternative currencies? Shouldn’t the state be spending its time trying to correct the problems the Fed (or shutting it down), instead of trying to shut down those who are trying to solve problems the government is not?
1. ushistory.org “Currency Act,” http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/related/currencyact.htm Retrieved 10/30/07.
2. u-s-history.com “Currency Act,” http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h1212.html Retrieved 10/30/07.
3. Cooper, Peter. “Ideas for a Science of Good Government,” http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h1212.html Retrieved 10/30/07.
4. Meeker-Lowry, Susan. “The Potential of Local Currency,” Z Magazine, July 1995. http://www.zmag.org/ZMag/articles/july95lowry.htm Retrieved 10/30/07.
5. Wikipedia. “Local Exchange Trading System,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Local_Exchange_Trading_System Retrieved 10/30/07.
6. BallvÃ©, Marcello. “Silent Revolution,” Orion Magazine, July 2006. http://thetake.org/media/The%20Silent%20Revolution.pdf Retrieved 10/30/07.
7. Katel, Peter. “Argentina: the Post Money Economy,” Time, February 2002. http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,199474,00.html Retrieved 10/30/07.
8. DeMeulenaere, Stephen. “Reinventing the Market: Alternative Currencies and Community Development in Argentina,” International Journal of Community Currency Research, 2000. http://www.uea.ac.uk/env/ijccr/pdfs/IJCCR%20Vol%204%20(2000)%203%20DeMeulenaere.pdf Retrieved 10/30/07.
9. Greaves, Bettina Bien. “Market Money and Free Banking,” The Freeman, October 1999. http://www.fee.org/publications/the-freeman/article.asp?aid=4946 Retrieved 10/30/07.
10. Bodow, Steve. “The Money Shot,” Wired, September 2001. http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/9.09/paypal_pr.html Retrieved 10/30/07.
11. Ludwig von Mises Institute. “The Case for Gold.” http://www.mises.org/store/Case-for-Gold-The-P386C0.aspx?AFID=1 Retrieved 10/30/07.
12. Greenspan, Alan. “Gold and Economic Freedom.” The Objectivist, 1966. http://www.321gold.com/fed/greenspan/1966.html Retrieved 10/30/07.
13. Dibbell, Julien. Wired, January 2002. http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/10.01/egold.html Retrieved 10/30/07.
14. Orzano, Michele. Coin World Magazine, October 1998. http://www.libertydollar.org/news-stories/pdfs/1164902714.pdf Retrieved 10/30/07.
15. Liberty Dollar web site. “Regional Currency Office.” http://www.libertydollar.org/ld/rco/index.htm Retrieved 10/30/07.
16. e-dinar web site. “History.” http://www.e-dinar.com/html/3_4.html Retrieved 10/30/07.
17. Krebs, Brian. washingtonpost.com, “U.S.: Online Payment Network Abetted Fraud, Child Pornography,” May 2007. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/01/AR2007050101291.html Retrieved 10/30/07.
18. Zetter, Kim. Wired News, “E-Gold Gets Tough on Crime,” December 2006. http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2006/12/72278 Retrieved 10/30/07.
19. “US Government Forces E-gold Redemptions - Seizes Gold,” Money Net News, May 2007. http://www.moneynetnews.com/articles/54/1/US-Government-Forces-E-gold-Redemp Retrieved 10/30/07.
20.US Mint web site. “Liberty Dollars Not Legal Tender, United States Mint Warns Consumers.” http://www.usmint.gov/pressroom/index.cfm?flash=yes&action=press_release&id=710 Retrieved 10/30/07.
21. Liberty Dollar web site. “Legal Updates.” http://www.libertydollar.org/ld/legal/updates.htm Retrieved 10/30/07.
22. Taylor, Jeff. Reason Magazine web site,”Your Liberty Dollar Raid Update.” November 2007. http://www.reason.com/blog/show/123553.html Retrieved 7/24/07.
23. Liberty Dollar web site. “FBI Raid on the Liberty Dollar.” November 2007. http://www.libertydollar.org/ld/legal/raid.htm Retrieved 7/24/07.
24.Balko, Radley. Reason Magazine,”Who Killed Pay Pal?” August 2005. http://www.reason.com/news/show/33114.html Retrieved 10/30/07.
It all started to make sense to me when I attended Learning Annex’s Wealth Expo earlier this year-a seminar where teachers of The Secret, the hosts of Flip This House, George Foreman, Tony Robbins and former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan [pictured above in banner from Learning Annex website] purportedly taught the thousands in attendance how to take advantage of the current foreclosure boom.
Using language borrowed from today’s more money-centric New Age spiritualists, as well as the get-rich-quick books of the early 1900s ‘New Thought Movement’ on which these pyramid schemes are based (such as Elizabeth Towne’s The Science of Getting Rich or Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich), they encouraged their mostly black audience to get on the ladder to success by purchasing educational DVDs and wealth-building ‘systems.’
These courses all promised to teach the properly motivated American how to find homeowners down on their luck and approaching foreclosure, as well as how to buy those homes from under them and resell them at a great profit. What made the spectacle doubly outrageous were not the dancing girls or indoor fireworks; it was the fact that most of the participants were themselves desperate former homeowners, whose illnesses, divorces, fires, and floods had put them in to foreclosure, too. Get it? They were paying to learn how to feed on people just like themselves. […]
Participation in business or, in most of our cases, land or home ownership, means helping put those wheels of the credit industry in motion. And the more we push, the more momentum they gain, and the more influence they have over an increasingly large portion of our experience. Reality becomes defined by credit sectors, and our time is consumed more each day with wondering how we’re going to pay back what we’ve borrowed.
Every once in a while, though, we break the rules and get to see the possibility for another kind of economy. Whether it’s an alternative currency, an open source software solution, or the simple good faith gifts we make to one another for creating value in each other’s lives.
‘By far the most dangerous foe we have to fight is apathy - indifference from whatever cause, not from a lack of knowledge, but from carelessness, from absorption in other pursuits, from a contempt bred of self satisfaction’- William Osler (Canadian Physician, 1849-1919)
“It may well be that our means are fairly limited and our possibilities restricted when it comes to applying pressure on our government. But is this a reason to do nothing? Despair is nor an answer. Neither is resignation. Resignation only leads to indifference, which is not merely a sin but a punishment”- Elie Weisel
“Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all-the apathy of human beings.”- Helen Keller
“The price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.”- Plato
“The biggest conspiracy has always been the fact that there is no conspiracy. Nobody’s out to get you. Nobody gives a shit whether you live or die. There, you feel better now?” -Dennis Miller
“The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment”- Robert M. Huchins
“Is it ignorance or apathy? Hey, I don’t know and I don’t care”- Jimmy Buffet
(I originally wrote this to take a look at the apathy prevalent in our society today without intending to look at this as a ‘generational thing’ because it generalizes entire groups of unique individuals, but I discovered that in order to talk about the current situation it was necessary to go back in time and look at the sociological trends that got us here.)
Recently someone sent me a link to the famous article written by Tom Wolfe, ‘The ?Me’ Decade and the Third Awakening’. When it first came out it in the mid-seventies it caused quite a stir. So much so that it became the label for an entire group of young people growing up at that time. ‘The Me Decade’ or ‘The Me Generation’ went on to become the ‘Baby Boomers’ new title. ‘See me, feel me, touch me, heal me.’ Analyze me, listen to me, and talk to me, me…me!! After reading through the article, it occurred to me that Voltaire was right. ‘Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose’. The more that things change, the more they stay the same.
Some friends and I were talking over dinner when their 20 year old son commented on the attitude of some of his generation. He said that his peers are (and I quote) ‘very spoiled, selfish, and unrealistic about work and life in general. They tend to be self-indulgent, messy, and wait for others to take care of things. Some want a good paying job without having to be too inventive or work too hard for it, and many are foolish about handling money. Immediate self-gratification is expected and pursued. There is a tendency to blame others for things and many have to be rescued from their own lack of experience or incompetence.’
The youth of ANY generation has some of these qualities, so what’s different?
Much of the ‘Me Generation’ were the product of hard working parents who grew up during the Great Depression, and who fought and lived through WWI and WWII. Scarcity was the norm, and family and community were of priority. The future rebels of the 60’s grew up hearing about war and the enormous struggle to make ends meet in the quest for the ‘American Dream’. The anti-war protests, civil rights movement, sexual liberation, and other movements of the 60’s and 70’s, were led by a youth whose idealism and vision led them to believe that united together they could ‘change the world’. In essence this was correct. Many things did change, and some issues we’re still fighting for today.
The idealism and self-exploration of the sixties eventually morphed into the self-indulgent, narcissism of the 70’s and 80’s. Out of the communal focus of free love and equal rights for everyone, a scream for individuality and uniqueness emerged. New religious movements and psychotherapy became common place, and intense self-examination and hedonism became acceptable and encouraged. The mottos ‘Do Your Own Thing’, and ‘Do What Thou Wilt’ eventually morphed into disco glitter and glam, metal, punk and goth and ‘whatever turns you on’. ‘You create your own reality, baby. Go and get it!’
The advance in technology in the 90’s created a time of opportunity and optimism. With the ‘dot-com boom’, company mergers and spinoffs, and a fairly decent job market, the growth and expansion seemed limitless. Then suddenly, along with the event of 9/11, the ‘opportunities’ came to a screeching halt. The dot-coms went bust. Corrupt accounting practices were uncovered in large established companies. Many good paying jobs were outsourced or eliminated completely, and rampant corruption was found in the justice department, the political arena, business, financial, and housing markets, which left us little reason to hold on to such positivism.
In today’s social climate much of the idealism and self-indulgence of the past has now turned into apathy. The predominant attitude of today is filled with apathy, victimization, and what I call ‘I.D.G.A.D’ (‘I Don’t Give A Damn’ or I.D.G.A.S: ‘I Don’t Give A Shit’, if you prefer). And this isn’t limited only to the youth. Many adults fit this same profile.
What the HELL happened?!
For many people computers, video games, television, and cell phones take up most of their time and serve as a distraction to what is really going on around them. The rising cost of living and the dwindling of job opportunities have some people working two or three jobs just to pay the bills. Our Bill of Rights are being slowly stripped away by our government, ‘Big Brother’ is watching, and some people are so stressed out that they’re taking pills supplied by Big Pharma to put them deeper into zombie mode.
Take action and try to change things?
Who has the time, energy or motivation?
Lawsuits won by Big Business (which are intimately connected to our politicians and everything else) leave shareholders, disgruntled employees, and potential whistleblowers asking ‘why bother?!’
Information, communication and entertainment are an instant click away. The desire for attention and our ‘15 minutes of fame’ are satiated though social networking sites, forums and blogs. The disconnection and isolation the instant world has brought leave many people yearning for community. Which ironically leaves some people all alone with their computers and gadgets trying to ‘connect’; searching for some sort of validity through their virtual worlds.
In spite of the fact that technology has been used mainly as a tool for the expression and exploitation of ‘self’, there has also been an increase in people using it for creating a force to combat the corruption that attempts to blind, silence, and control us. With our rights to protest being threatened (and in some cases protesters themselves being labeled as ‘terrorists’), it’s time to ‘wake up’ and take back the power that we have to make a difference. To take control of our anger and what we’re doing in the virtual world and manifest it onto the physical. Can’t find the time? Take some time off from your networking sites, games, texting and T.V, etc. and get out there. Don’t like this message?