Punchinello’s Chronicles

November 16, 2008

What can One Person Do?

Filed under: View from the Bottom — Punchinello @ 2:34 pm
Tags: , , ,

Living in a country and society may not seem like it, but it’s actually very similar to having an investment portfolio. We know there are many people who have a lot of money invested in stocks, bonds, real estate, and other products, but we think we’re not like them. It’s not true.

Think about all the money you earn, all the money you’ve earned over your life, and all the tax money you’ve paid since you started working. Where did it all go?

Now think about all the roads you use when you drive from here to there. Think about the water pipes carrying water in and out of your house. Think about the electrical system and all the wires, the phone system and all the cables. Think about the airports, runways, radar systems, vehicles. Think about the trains, tracks, crossing lights, and every road sign in the country.

Think about how often you casually see FDA Approved before you buy a package of meat, or the list of ingredients you scan before buying some packaged product. What about the ports where ships dock and unload all the goods from other countries, including the cars and clothing we use, the products in Walmart and other retail stores, and all the consumer electronics.

How about the radio stations you listen to, and the FCC coordination of channels so that they don’t each overlap and you hear five different shows at the same time? Then think about the same thing with TV channels. Who made it so that you have to stop for a red light, go for a green light, and go like crazy for a yellow light? And what about making it so that you have to drive on the right side of the roads?

Everything you use every day is part of your investment in the country and its infrastructure. All the money you see is managed and kept uniform by the country. A dollar looks like a dollar because we all decided that’s how a dollar should look. It’s mostly green and white, not pink and blue. And all this is paid for by the money you earn and the taxes you send in to various government branches.

Suppose you had $1-million and you gave it to a financial advisor to invest. Would you just forget about it? Would you just leave it in his or her hands, paying no more attention for the rest of your adult life?

If this advisor were to call you and suggest that now would be a good time to switch from one form to another of investments, would you say that you were too busy to think about it? Would you tell him or her that now isn’t a good time to talk?

How about if this advisor tells you they’re going to invest in real estate with your money, and before they do so, they just want a quick okay. Would you say, “Oh…do whatever you want, I don’t have time for this. You figure it out and just take care of it?”

What happens if you check your investment balance in a couple of years and instead of $1-million, you now have only $700,000; would you have any questions or wonder if there may be something wrong?

Nah, nobody does that sort of thing, right? None of us really care what’s the balance. A million, a hundred thousand…same thing. After all, these investments don’t mean anything right now. They’re not important today. As long as “somehow” there’s enough money when it comes time to retire, that’s fine. And retirement is a long, long, long way away, maybe forever away.

There’s a sort of rule-of-thumb in marketing that 1 person connects with 17 people. When 1 person tries out a new restaurant, by the time they’ve talked with their friends about what they did last weekend, and those friends have mentioned it to their friends, 17 people have heard “good” or “bad” about the new restaurant.

Think about the next time your kids or the neighborhood kids ask you a basic question about life. “How come everyone’s so worried about the economy?” Or whatever other questions they might ask.

How often do you tell those kids, “Oh, I don’t have time for those questions. I’m a very busy and very important person! I have things to do, planes to catch, and I can’t take the time to answer complicated questions.”

Great. And after 10 years, those kids grow up to be voters. And 17 of their friends become voters. And each of those 17 affect 17 more.

What about when family members sit around the Thanksgiving table and wonder if there’ll be any money to buy Christmas presents? Or how about when half the adults in the family wonder if they’ll be laid off in January?

“Oh, let’s not talk about silly things like that. Let’s just enjoy the turkey, watch some football, and get drunk. Besides, there’s nothing we can do about any of this anyway.” Is that the solution?

What each of us can do is totally ignore what’s going on in everyday life. We can pay no attention to how the mayor and city council for our town, village or city does anything. We can accept whatever new laws, new regulations, or new construction comes along.

Each of us can decide we’re too busy to read, too busy to check the news, too busy to talk with our family, and too busy to worry with our friends over problems. After all, they have the problem and we don’t.

We can each decide that paying our credit-card bills is much more important, much more worrisome, and far more complicated than whether or not the kids know anything at all about business. We’re very busy, right now, and don’t have time to talk about things we don’t understand either.

All of us can leave it to somebody else to run things, handle problems, deal with terrorists, manage the legal system, and everything else that doesn’t affect us. We’re too busy, we’ve made it through in the past, and this is just a momentary slowdown in something. What? Nobody knows; it’s a mystery.

My dentist has a great poster on the wall: “Ignore your teeth and they’ll eventually go away.” Just like moms used to tell kids years ago, ignore the bully and he’ll go away. Ignore the mean person and they’ll go away. Ignore your friends and they’ll go away. Ignore your kids and they’ll go away.

He has another great poster on the wall: “It took years to make your teeth into what they are. They won’t be fixed in weeks.”

All of us have ignored, been too busy, had no time, and didn’t want to think about hard things now for decades. Each and every one of us has simply handed over our money to the “financial advisor” for most of our lives, asking no questions, paying no attention, and being too busy to be involved.

It’s all someone else’s problem. It’s all too complicated. Someone else runs things. Someone else will fix things. Someone else is smarter, more learned, better, wiser, and more competent. We’ve all decided that what we’re doing in our own job, our own neighborhood, our own car, and our own living room is much more important than whatever’s going on “out there.”

None of that “really” matters. What’s for dinner, what’s on TV, and what does the boss think: That’s what matters. Like Scarlett O’Hara (in “Gone with the Wind,” a book and movie), we all say that tomorrow will be another day. Things will be better later. All this is just temporary. We all have much more important things to do than “sit around” and talk about gloom and doom.

When each of us sees something wrong, we can each let someone else deal with it. When we smell smoke, forget about it; we’re too busy. When we see someone hit by a car, forget about it. Someone else will clean up the mess. When a family member is diagnosed with a fatal disease, that’s not our problem. When the kids get expelled from school, who cares? Not our problem. We want to be happy. We don’t want to think gloomy thoughts.

Yup, life is all about what’s for dinner tonight. It’s all about whether or not our favorite team wins. It’s all about whether or not we’ve got enough left on a credit card to buy the latest PlayStation game. It’s all about whether or not the company’s gonna have layoffs next month. All that “other stuff” isn’t our problem. It’s not our life. Someone else can deal with it.

Oh, and those people yelling about things on the radio or the news? Everyone knows they’re just mean-spirited, hateful cranks. None of that matters either. Whatever…we’ve got an important cellphone call to make. So what if the front end on the car is shaking? What’s the worst that could happen, the front axle will come off? Nah…never happen. It’s never happened before, so it’ll never happen in the future.

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6 Comments »

  1. The malevolent elites have modelled sociopathic narcissism
    so that the upper class wannabe elites aspire to being just as selfish
    and then it gives the middle classes the same sickening permission
    to join the dog eat dog world the elites concocted to keep everyone
    their slaves.

    Human civilization might approach the garden of eden
    if these parasites at the top, would just all catch the flu
    and suddenly die off.

    Then the rest of us could begin the slow journey back
    to valuing our real selves and each other.

    Grace
    http://flourishingincrisis.wordpress.com/

    Comment by flourishgrace — December 3, 2008 @ 11:58 pm | Reply

  2. Jeez, I dunno…”if these parasites at the top would just all catch the flu and suddenly die off?” That seems pretty malevolent to me. And what’s so special about “the rest of us,” that the universe should somehow see fit to keep “us” alive? What do we produce? What do we create? How do we advance human evolution?

    Or is it that people who “feel” their way through life, thinking with their “heart” are somehow more evolved or advanced? Is that it?

    Comment by Punchinello — December 4, 2008 @ 12:09 am | Reply

  3. What is so special about the rest of us, is that we have empathy and consciences…
    that is what Narcissists, psychopaths and sociopaths don’t have.

    Imagine a world where everyone had empathy. Woudlnt that be a much better world?

    Whether someone goes through life with a heady intellectual style or wears their emotions on their sleeves doesn’t really matter. Both can contribute to the society at large. What matters is does one have a conscience and have empathy. Maybe not all of the time but MOST of the time.

    Comment by flourishgrace — December 4, 2008 @ 12:47 am | Reply

  4. Agreed, empathy is a key element to being human. Where I would disagree is the blanket generalization that people “at the top” got there because they’re parasites, or that they have no such empathy. I can think of a lot of people, off the top of my head, who are world-class successes and who also are wonderful examples of the best in humanity.

    But I can think of a whole lot more people in the middle to lower strata who are mindless thugs, without the slightest concept of humanity, empathy, interest or thought.

    I can imagine all sorts of probable worlds, and it’s a fine exercise in developing the imagination. But the key is to have a clear view of the current, real world. In that world, many (if not most) people lack empathy entirely and won’t learn how to regain it. I’d argue that empathy is developed in childhood, and the window for that development closes beyond a certain age.

    It’s just as easy to say how wonderful it would be if all the mindless thugs and sociopaths just fell over dead one afternoon, and wouldn’t that be a wonderful world. It ain’t gonna happen. So what can each individual person actually do to improve the tiny section of the world around themselves. That’s the point here.

    Comment by Punchinello — December 4, 2008 @ 1:05 am | Reply

  5. Ok. My “blanket generalization” is not such a big blanket because I believe there are only a few dozen people at the top.. so it’s a small group of money powers who decide where the famines, wars, profits will be made. I do not believe that the majority of successful people are psychopaths.

    Actually to be even more specific, of the most powerful elite world owners, I would venture to state they are all men. It seems likely that their wives and children would also be their victims.

    I do agree with you that the disordered elites will not just die off. Of course it is a
    flight of imagination.. however… it has value in that… many people belive that
    human nature in general is extremely flawed.

    I do not believe that.

    I believe that most people are decent, loving, do their best, and only deteriorate psychologically within a sick society. What I am saying is that human beings are basically divided into psychopaths and the rest of us.. who have empathy.

    The psychopaths would have you believe that most people are tainted with original sin because THEY ARE. They need to hide their own sins among people who have little self esteem.

    The actual effective way to take back the world from these insane powermongers is to become the most loving, emotionally healthy, positive people we can become as individuals and prove the psychopaths are wrong.

    I look forward to the day, when they are ‘outed’ for their despicable crimes and selfishness, even if this takes 1,000 more years.

    Comment by flourishgrace — December 4, 2008 @ 1:20 am | Reply

  6. We seem to be about halfway agreed, in that there’s a cause and effect taking place. The key question is how do people become narcissists? How is it that they have no empathy? What, actually, is empathy and how does it differ from sympathy?

    The bottom line is that adults come from children. If we can say that empathy is learned, and that it’s learned in childhood (along with morality and a conscience), then it would seem to me that better childhood development would have a long-term effect.

    Another aspect of narcissism and its lack of empathy is the almost entirely lacking comprehension of long-term planning and analysis. Everything is short-term, based on how the narcissist feels at any given moment. So a narcissist begets another narcissist.

    Having adults demonstrate better qualities to other adults is okay, up to a point. Pacifism is one of the most destructive influences in modern history, after all. But teaching better qualities of humanity to children is fundamental and critical.

    “Becoming” loving and emotionally healthy is a fine sentiment, and easy to speak as a phrase. But actually doing so is quite a different kettle of fish. Anyone can spout platitudes and words without actions. But it takes real functionality to implement actions. To become “emotionally healthy” isn’t an action, it’s simply a status. So another question is what actions and what outcomes would be introduced by this emotional health.

    Comment by Punchinello — December 4, 2008 @ 2:04 am | Reply


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