Politics and personal responsibility

I’ve long recognized the two-party, one-ideology basis of American politics, and I was calling Barack Obama a neoconservative long before it was popular to recognize him as the Teflon President 2.0. But even I can hardly believe this tidbit from a guy I thought was pretty damned smart: From the I-cannot-believe-this-is-happening camp, Obama is appointing a Monsanto man as food safety czar. Welcome to Farmageddon, land of the free.


I fully expect Obama to cave into the richest one percent of Americans, yet again, on the issue of health care. The wealthiest one percent in this country has never had it so good — their share of this country’s total income is the highest it’s been since 1929 — and many of them will profit from the $23 trillion in bailout largess the Treasury Department now says could be headed to financial firms. Now they’re launching an attack on health care, because the current system is perfect for them. It allows rich folks ready access to the best doctors while the rest of us have to wait incessantly for overpriced treatment of limited value. FDR warned us about this the last time we were in the midst of a Great Depression, but the corporate goons won that battle (like most of the others, before and after).
While he’s propping up the rich by destroying the middle class, Obama’s solution to the financial crisis is to run the printing presses as rapidly as possible, thereby generating a massive deficit. Even the projections of his own government hacks don’t have us getting a handle on this deficit before Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security go belly-up.
At the same time he’s destroying our future, Obama is making the classic, oft-repeated error of pursuing war in Afghanistan. Although the likely consequences include U.S. bankruptcy, even I have a hard time fully supporting Obama’s bloodlust for killing citizens who already find themselves firmly in the stone age. In response to Obama’s imperial overreach in Afghanistan and elsewhere, Chalmers Johnson is wisely recommending we dismantle the empire. I don’t see a lot of support for Johnson’s excellent idea, because our society is firmly committed to twittering while Obama burns our future. Most Americans have not learned anything from history, and therefore will support Obama as he commits us to a trifecta of consequences seen throughout the history of the world: imperial overstretch, perpetual war, and insolvency. Johnson indicates this is “leading to a likely collapse similar to that of the former Soviet Union.” He makes it sound like a bad thing.
As the empire crumbles, a few voices in cyberspace have us going back to 1910. They recognize that our culture — which they know possesses us, not the other way around — is fatally destructive to the biosphere, and that we might have to go back to tying our shoes, cleaning our floors with mops, and churning butter. But they can’t imagine much further back than a Model T in every garage and train service connecting the nation. I can. But perhaps I’m just a hopelessly romantic uber-optimist.
As it turns out, revised data indicate that this particular “recession” is worse than prior estimates. The first 12 months saw the economy shrink more than twice as much as previously estimated, reflecting even bigger declines in consumer spending and housing. And, by the way, the housing recovery really isn’t one. If you want to derive any equity from your house, it’s time to sell. On the heels of the collapse of the residential housing market comes an even bigger blow to the economy: the commercial sector is toast, too.
Even Ben Bernanke is waking up to reality, finally admitting the current economy may be worse than Great Depression. He goes on to say growth will resume at 1% in the second half of this year, thus echoing mainstream economists court jesters who have been calling the current quarter the “bottom” of the recession for several quarters in a row. Green shoots, anybody? Mustard seeds? If you find ’em, you’d better eat ’em. It could be a while between meals.
In contrast to Benny and the jesters, Marketwatch is giving investment advice about the end of civilization. And just when you thought the news couldn’t get any better, Business Week says we’re likely headed for another oil shock, albeit worse than any previous one.
At some point, perhaps mainstream economists will recognize the link between energy prices and the economy. But since virtually none of them have noticed a spike in energy prices preceded 10 of the last 11 recessions, including the latest 3 big ones, I’m not terribly hopeful they’ll ever recognize it’s time for them to start thinking the unthinkable: the myth of perennial economic growth is dead..
And lest you think I’m calling for personal responsibility to solve our myriad problems, I know better. Personal responsibility is just another excuse for passing the buck to individuals, as if you and I had a damned thing to do with either of the twin evils of the fossil-fuel coin. We don’t run this civilization, folks, so we’re not to blame for runaway greenhouse or the economic consequences of declining energy supplies. Indeed, we need go back only 52 years to find powerful military voices recognizing the importance of oil and other fossil fuels to the maintenance of American power and western civilization.
Despite the unbridled optimism of left-leaning “scientists,” it’s almost certainly too late to save civilization and our species without bringing down the industrial economy. Another oil shock or two and we’re headed right back to the stone age, and just in time to save the living planet and therefore our species’ only chance of persisting beyond the current century
More good news: Increasing evidence, along with this anecdote, indicate you can stop sending your children to the K-12 concentration camps we call schools (actually, we’d have been a lot better off had we done so years ago). It’s too late for these institutions to rebuild the thinking class. They’re too busy promoting capitalism for the poor and socialism for the rich.
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This entry was inspired by numerous comments from Stan Moore.

Comments 26

  • It worked.So here we are again.
    Education is an illusion,promoted to create The Yuppie Scum social class,our contemporary Nouveau Riche.The actual goal is deeducation– to inculcate the vices of vanity,envy and greed ,so necessary for Capitalism to flourish.All decent human attributes must be squelched.Any sense of good taste must be discouraged,so they can be sold over-priced ,ugly,ticky tacky houses in the sloburbs.
    Frank

  • Wendy:
    Not to worry–Prof Em Guy can’t get along without us–can he ??
    However he did find it necessary to deflate our egos a bit by putting our names in smaller type at the beginning.
    Frank

  • To Frank– re: religion from a previous post… I think the value of a religious education is at a fair market value. Especially since I’ve seen very few religiously educated people who are willing to really stand for what is good and right. Most (though I hope not all) churches (and others) these days are more about filling the coffers than filling the hearts and minds of the community. Or worse, greedily grabbing for cash while also indoctrinating people to hate those who are different rather than spread an interest in universal love… So, well, I say screw em’.
    As for Obama, my dad and I had an interesting conversation the other day about Obama. Basically, the question was whether he was just horribly misguided, stupid, or actually evil. ‘Nuff said. So much for the hail mary pass that was Obama. At the same time, I can’t think of a popular republican that would have done any better.
    Everyone I know is in financial hot water. Most people are lucky to make it comfortably to the next paycheck. Hard working people with good jobs who were fine until very recently–now working poor.
    Like my grandfather said, it all works out the way it has to in the end. And as my favorite author said…So it goes.

  • ‘reason’ – fools gold for the bright
    Try questioning the legitimacy of education
    with a Tsarist peasant. Prior to the
    revolution peasants were not the allowed
    the benefits/’indoctrination’ of an education.
    (even homeschooling is legitimized by the system.)
    It is easy to slander education when we are all
    the beneficiaries of it. When you have
    children your personal and philosophical views are challenged.
    Ultimately you want your children to grow up and be independent and resilient. This of course includes financially independence. This requires
    a job, an education etc. More middleclass moaning. In the scheme
    of things we are extraordinarily fortunate to be born at this time.
    I will hazard a guess that none of us have experienced real hardship or
    deprivation. We have the time to sit here at waste time
    addicted to the noise on the internet.
    Perhaps getting an education can mean different things.
    What is education? Read some of the cultural criticism of
    Neil Postman, John Berger and more importantly The Brothers Karamazov.

  • matt:
    We are talking about two differnt things.Notice I said de-education.
    The Yuppie Scum is de-educated,taught that the only things that matter in life are one’s own vanity,envy,and greed.This is the anthesis of education.If education means anything at all,it certainly does not mean learning the tricks to furthur your vanity,envy, and greed.
    The Capitalist system found it neccesary to corrupt the meaning of education,to mean ONLY learning a craft or trade.The only true education is a liberal arts education.I’ve gone into this at great lenght on these pages in the past.
    The key is to understand that the Yuppie Scum is most certainly not educated–this is on purpose.And this is why the Yuppie Scum is a particularly repulsive social class.
    Frank

  • matt, Education is vital to the health of a society and the well-being of every living thing on the planet (because ignorance tends to lead people into some pretty big mistakes–think the history of waste disposal, etc…it takes a profoundly stupid bunch of people to actually dump raw sewage into their drinking water supply).
    That said, there’s a really problem when it comes to obtaining a good quality education in the US. A lot depends on your geographical location. Guy’s assessment of public schools as pre-prison training isn’t far off in some cases. Of course, this isn’t a universal truth. There are good public schools and there are bad ones. The problem is the ratio of good to bad. Also, the problem of access to good schools/teachers varies by social class.
    I’m happy to note, though, that there are some traditional academies cropping up out here complete with strong math, science, language arts, music, geography, world history, and foreign language in the lower grades. These schools are attempting to return to strong *thinking* and technical skills rather than garbage like “inventive spelling”, etc. I also like the high school that is actually an arm of the local community college which allows kids to get an A.A. or A.A.S. for free at the same time they are studying for a high school diploma. I don’t think I’m out of line in saying that I think they’re on to something…
    No, I’m not against education, education is important. I’d just like to see a serious focus on things that matter like passing knowledge and a clean/relatively peaceful world to the next generation. That means increasing prosperity, focusing on mutually beneficial goals (like keeping the planet liveable), greater interdependence, better education, better communication, and personal/social responsibility (i.e. placing a higher value on responsible and charitable behavior than on self-absorption…ya know, like plastic surgery, reality TV, keeping up with the Jones’…and instead seeing to it that those who need care receive it.
    Can you imagine a world where we fall all over ourselves admiring, instead of riches and fame, people who give the most of their time/talent/treasure? What if everyone was trying to out-give (rather than out-buy) the Jones’ next door? Instead of coveting the neighbor’s Christmas lights display or new Cadillac, what if we were all conditioned to be envious of the long line of people showing up to their house for free food or medical care?
    The world will never be a utopian paradise, but we can do a lot better than we have been. It’s time for a massive paradigm shift. I don’t know if it is possible, but I certainly hope to be a part of the group that is trying 🙂

  • Don’t disagree with you Frank,
    however one only wants the best for
    their children. (goes without saying)
    I did a liberal arts under grad
    in art history, aesthetics etc
    and look where that got me. 🙂
    I then had do a Dip Ed and
    ended up teaching in a privileged
    private school for several years.
    (my mother was very proud!)
    A place where the kids wore
    blazers and the staff wore academic gowns.
    (very yuppie scum!).
    Yes they still do exist. It was the best job
    I ever had. I left it to pursue further study.
    Landscape Architecture – a combination
    of science, design and liberal arts. Look
    where that got me, working for local government!
    (I agree with you 100%, an under grad in arts
    is a real education). The wife’s niece did a double degree
    in Chem. Eng and science, anyway she didn’t have to
    write a single essay whilst studying for 5 years at Melb Uni.
    Now that is really fucked up, philosophy of science should
    be a core subject in any science degree. As ‘educated’ as
    she is, she is as dull as dish water.
    Anyway it’s a topsy turvy world.
    With regards to Charlene’s comments.
    I don’t know anybody here who is suffering from financial hardship.
    A teacher friend of the wife came over the other day,
    anyway she wants to buy some real estate, i.e. to do up
    and sell. She says a friend of hers (single teacher on $65Kpa)
    has $500,000 in debt on a couple of properties. She reasons
    there is no reason why she could not do the same. Basically, I said
    that she should be very careful. Australia could easily hit the skids
    as much as the rest of the world has. A period of asset deflation
    could easily create bankruptcies. I am trying to be pessimistic as much as I
    can over here, but no one is listening! Anyway the wife rolls her
    eyes as I give her friend the economic stats from overseas,
    rates of unemployment, foreclosures etc.
    What can you do? There is far too much optimism here.
    Just bought the wife a new car. Have to keep her happy.
    She wants me to go to a conference in New York later this year
    so that I would be sufficiently in ‘debt’ to her to allow her to go
    trekking in Nepal next year. We both work part time.
    GFC? What collapse? As I has said before nothing has
    changed here. As you can imagine the wife does not take
    much notice of my peak oil gloom.
    So, I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know how complex economies work.
    Here is my 2 cents worth. When the Aussie dollar falls like a
    proverbial south American peso (which is often), our imports decline sharply and our exports rise. So our balance of trade/current account deficit is invariably squared up. As I have said I am no expert, but if the US dollar is kept artificially high, your imports rise and your exports dive. Now this of course allows you to buy cheap oil and goods. But your trade balance is shot,
    plus jobs are scarce and unemployment rises.
    High levels of debt basically devalues currencies. Except if its the worlds reserve currency and logic is consequently depleted.
    Now since China holds shit loads of US treasuries it is in its interest to keep
    the value of the currency high (perhaps artificially so).
    The Chinese are basically haemorrhaging your
    economy. The bail out money (from issued bonds) basically underpins the currency, which props up treasuries (sounds like a ponzi scheme), which keeps the Chinese happy. I can just imagine Geithner pleading with the Chinese to buy more treasuries, but of course the Chinese want you to raise taxes, increase regulation and increase the savings rate. Its bit like the IMF going to the third world country asking a two bit dictatorship to keep its shit in order. When the bail out money runs out of steam, they will take their money out and put their money into hard assets. It would make sense if the Chinese were to convert their existing long term bonds into shorter maturity dates. (Just in case). I can imagine they would probably prefer not to be holding any treasuries or unless they like the power/influence it has over a foreign nation.
    If the Chinese decline the offer to purchase more bonds going forward
    or shorts its position, the currency should devalue and no doubt OPEC
    would like to see oil traded in another currency or another commodity.
    Now that will see the price of gas at the pump rise dramatically.
    A currency is simply a measure of confidence in the value of the paper/linen.
    (nothing new here). The Chinese are lending you the money to buy their cheap shit. You are both dancing together and the termites have eaten out the floor! 70% of your economy is consumer spending, here it is about 25%.
    Anyway, there is much punditry on the cause of the GFC. The expert
    opinions suggest that the run up in the oil price caused the economic
    collapse. As stated before our price for ‘gas’ during the July of last year
    was about $7 per gallon ($US Aussie $ parity), currently the price is around $5 (AUD = .85 US$). As stated there is no recession here (yet). It is too
    easy to blame peak oil for the economic situation. Clearly there is more
    going on/complexity than any of us can fathom.
    We have an asset bubble, I keep telling friends it will burst, no one
    believes it can happen here. Call me Cass.
    Excuse the typos etc, no doubt there are many, I cant edit on the screen.
    Clearly bugger all to do at work today. Thanks for the bailout!
    We are benefiting from your governments largesse via China
    via Aussie commodities. Thanks guys, do any of you know of nice places to
    stay in Manhattan? 🙂 Just joking, ‘don’t tear strips off me!’
    ps – Charlene, just read your post just I was about to post mine,
    I agree with what you are saying, it is about quality.

  • I didn’t mean to sound unnecessarily dour, but I do see a lot of hardship. This is partly due to my own position near the bottom rung of the pyramid scheme that is our US economy, and also a result of some of the activities I’ve been involved in lately.
    We’re located in an exurb of a desert city. Our costs for water and power have gone up while property values have sunk deep into the caliche under our feet. Rental rates have dropped in once good areas causing an influx of extremely low income people into once very middle-class areas. Not to sound harsh, but this raises the gang activity and makes the local public schools (and police…ill-equipped to begin with for the boom they saw in recent years) even more stressed than before.
    Of the people I know, many are prolonging retirement, going bankrupt, visiting local food missions, barely making enough to pay their gas into the city for work (partially a fault of lousy infrastructure/mass transit), etc.
    Add to that, the rediculous situation with healthcare and it isn’t unusual to hear from folks who are literally devastated by medical costs.
    Sorry to be gloomy, but the world I’m living in has changed quite a bit since the downturn. I’m sure it isn’t the same *everywhere* but in this dusty place, it’s hard not to notice. Especially working with developmentally challenged kids, visiting local mini-disasters, and lending a hand with the local freecycle. So much need, it is overwhelming.
    Sure, there are still the proverbial yuppy scum out there, doing their thing, totally oblivious. I can’t help wondering when their wakeup call will arrive, because it will. It always does. It’s the way of the world.
    I have no idea whether this is all peak oil, a collective failure of imagination and policy, or something more. It doesn’t really matter, because the solution is the same no matter what: responsibility, charity, and knowledge–in that order.

  • I can easily imagine a world you describe,
    and I share my imaginings with the wife – to no avail.
    An optimist is more likely to lose money than a pessimist.
    I am feeling very insecure about the future even with all
    the relative prosperity around me. ‘Save in times of plenty,
    for in dearth you will go hungry …etc’
    Forget retiremnet – here they have just raised the pension age to 67. They will no doubt extend this to 70. This is particularly hard for tradesmen, whose bodies dont function very well beyond 60.
    Healthcare – they are talking about bringing dental under medicare.
    People have been finding dentistry unbeleivably expensive and as
    consequence they have been neglecting this aspect of their health.
    Stories of families taking their kids to the dentist for a check up and gettimg slugged with a $200 fee. This has been front page news, talkback etc.
    When asset deflation strikes and rentals fall, this is a recipe for disaster. I am old enough to remember a real recession, try
    relating this experience to a 30 year old. They dont get it.
    People here are still convinced that asset prices will rise forever.

  • Hi Guy —
    Here in Northern California, an affluent, if not wealthy area, I am finally seeing signs of contraction. More and more closed retail business, including a Chilis Restaurant, a MacDonalds, and lots of shops and businesses large and small. On Sunday morning I went to the Home Depot and there was no one in line before me — which would have been unthinkable 12 months ago. Commute hour traffic is lighter than I have ever seen it, but still depressing at the absolute peak.
    But people are stupid. They think things are going to turn around. The radio newscasts argue that things are getting better, based on a slower rate of decline than a month ago.
    Kunstler nailed it again with his latest article about Bernanke. The U.S. economy is dead now except for the cash infusions given to Big Money by the Fed, which goes into the stock market, creating the illusion of an economy. A few cars are selling because the taxpayer cannot relinquish the fable of “something for nothing” and everyone wants something for nothing.
    I’m surprised some twenty year olds are not figuring out that their entire future is screwed and that a viral revolution is not underway yet. The youngsters are sucked up into the materialist/techno web and cannot relate to reality, yet. But they will because reality always intervenes.
    It looks like Americans are not going to recognize the crash until they see dead bodies. A large-scale crop failure, a newly emerging avian virus, something will tip the scale in the foreseeable future and people will begin to think that maybe Obama’s Change We Can Believe In was small change and insufficient to repay the debt we have incurred to our planet, our youth, and ourselves.
    The four horsemen of the Apocalypse (Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice) have been supplanted by Obama, Biden, Clinton and Gates and the war horses are taking us into battle against ourselves — and there will be no winners, just losers.
    It is unfortunate that Hunter Thompson is not here to provide running commentary and the occasional ode to the damned.
    I guess what we need is a new Bill Murray movie to shake us from our lethargy, albeit briefly, and then a return to some sort of self induced stupor. Maybe a couple of Rockstar drinks and a 7-Eleven taquito will do it.
    On the brighter side, the local red-shouldered hawk fledglings are out and about, along with kestrels and red-tails and other species of my beloved birds of prey. They will not weep and mourn over our losses or our passing, and their passive approach to our demise is positively inspiring, I feel.
    S.M.

  • Hey MacGuy – we can relax. The BizWeek guy – Scott Nyquist – says we’ll just have to shore things up with alternative fuels, like ethanol. Good old American “Can do!” (BizWeek) Spirit will pull us up from this little slump. (No news here, AGAIN)

  • “An optimist is more likely to lose money than a pessimist.”
    True enough, I suppose. But we’re less likely to miss it. 🙂

  • Big Brother James:
    Welcome back.I hope you’ve been reading this blog site,so you know what a brouhaha you started when you suggested that a Doctorate in
    religion was less worthy than your PhD.I don’t mind all the jibes–the good must suffer for their virtue.Charlene had the good sense to put this in a realistic perspective.
    And after all doesn’t Doctor of Divinity sound benefic ?
    Frank

  • Thanks, Frank, but back when I said, “Frank has a DD, while Cliff, Guy and I all have PhD’s,” I certainly didn’t mean to imply that one was better than the other. You’ll remember that my next line was something akin to “It’s a wonder that anyone else reads this blog at all.”
    In fact, I’ve spent way too much time around folks with “advanced” degrees to place much value on any of them. Fortunately I spent more than a decade in “real jobs”–which included farms, factories, sawmills, and several newspapers–before I went to graduate school, so perhaps I lucked into some common sense along the way (even if I have a fondness that outweighs my skill for both flyfishing and golf).

  • Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Ronald Reagan, opined toda on the expiring economy:
    http://www.counterpunch.org/roberts08062009.html
    Borrowing from our old presidential candidate Ross Perot, “that giant sucking sound” that perceptive ears are now hearing is the open-chest wound of a mortally wounded national industrial economy, that will expire without regaining its former vigor. I know that Professor Guy hears it and feels the tragic seriousness that that sound represents…
    Stan Moore

  • Big Brother James:
    Thanks for your comment.I agree with you 100%.In fact that’s exactly the point I was trying–but failed to make.I can remember when only medical doctors and dentists called themselves “Doctor”.
    I’m extremely pleased and proud of both you and Prof Em Guy for purposely NOT affixing the PhD after your names. Too many fakers,phonys,and parveneaus do that.So much so,that a PhD after anyones name immediately makes me suspicious.
    Onward and upward.
    Frank

  • Thanks, Frank, and I share your suspicion of titles. In fact one of my proudest moments came when I gave a talk attended by a friend and neighbor, who said afterward that he never knew until he read the program–and would never have suspected–that I had a Ph.D.
    Much more impressive academic achievements than any of mine or Guy’s were the bachelor’s degrees earned by our father and my wife, both of whom can from anti-education backgrounds. And, incidentally, both of whom were both punished early on and eventually perhaps saved by our much-maligned public education system.

  • PhD after anyones name immediately makes me suspicious.
    Amen, Frank. It makes me think of the main character in that book Confederacy of Dunces. Besides, the knowledge suggested by a scrap of paper doesn’t matter half as much as the knowledge you actually have + what you do with it.
    I have more respect for an honest janitor than a dishonest doctor (of any stripe) any day of the week 🙂

  • “I have more respect for an honest janitor than a dishonest doctor (of any stripe) any day of the week.”
    And I hope you also have more respect for an honest doctor (of any stripe) than a dishonest janitor. More formal education doesn’t make a person better than anyone else, but neither does it make him/her worse. Having lots of experience with people on both ends of the spectrum, I find snobbery about equally common in both camps.

  • Keeping chickens makes you realise how inhumane
    the industrialised food system is. I have 2 chickens, they live
    in a pen that is 1.5m wide x 2.5m long and 2m tall
    (so I can comfortably walk in it). Even with this
    generous living arrangement they can’t wait for
    me to let them out for a couple of hours R & R.
    It sounds odd but I believe they are never
    happier than when they are following me around the garden.
    I receive 2 eggs per day – quite large, real ‘bum busters’!
    Although lately I have been supplying the neighbours son
    with fresh eggs, he is completing his final law exams,
    good brain food. I feed them layer pellets, plus kitchen scraps
    as well as generous amounts of weeds and whatever invertebrates
    they can find. There is a breed that requires little direct feeding,
    South American I think, although they are somewhat scrawny and
    they don’t produce as many eggs. With a family of 4, 2 chickens is not
    quite enough. 3 would be ideal. I like supplying the neighbours with
    fresh eggs, there is great pleasure in the giving. I baked them
    scones yesterday, my son didn’t think this was particularly manly!
    Although he was more than happy to eat them.
    James,
    You know cycling is the new golf, our local golf club has seen membership decline by about 30% over recent years. 30-50 year olds have taken to rec cycling on the weekends. As far fishing goes, there is fine line between just standing on shore and fishing. I recently took my 13 year old son spear fishing (free diving), well, he speared quite a large fish on his first outing. I had primal pride seeing my son wade out of the water with a fish bent over the end of spear. I had not been spear fishing since I was teenager. I had forgotten how much fun it was free diving and trying to catch dinner. They have stopped scallop dredging in the bay, the sea grass has returned along with the fish.
    Incidentally, the marine botany in the area is the richest/most complex in the world. So J, put some flippers on and go snorkelling! You will have more luck.
    Nice cook top Guy,
    You made realise how little I have done in the way of living sustainably/small eco footprint and future proofing. It does help to have the wife on board.
    Latest economic news from here, Aus is the only country in OECD to have economic growth this year, our unemployment rate has flat lined at 5.8% for the last 6 months. – go figure
    Double D,
    you should never be embarrassed by your achievements or seek the
    approval of others, I would say for a man of your ability, you have done really really well. 🙂
    matt, BA, Hons, Dip Ed, M.L.Arch + 4 year apprenticeship in stonemasonry/stone carving (building restoration)!! 🙂 – still miss working with the blokes.

  • Snobbery goes both ways indeed. As I graduated with highest honors from both high school and college, I got tired of people who had achieved less academically telling me how worthless “book learning” was. A lot of sour grapes there, I believe. They harped about how common sense was more important. Whence these false dichotomies? I have met people with barely a high school education who are exceedingly wise and intelligent and have commanded my utmost respect. And, I have known people with PhDs who have plenty of “real life smarts” with which to apply their education. My mother used to tell me I had more common sense than most. She may not have been correct in every instance of her assessment of my skills, but why can we not have educated, respectable janitors AND doctors? End soapbox.
    Matt, as much as I love snorkeling and like your idea, I don’t think Big Brother James is going to have a whole lot of luck snorkeling or spearing fish in the lakes, rivers and streams of the Northwestern U.S. 🙂 I’d love to visit AUS some day and give it a try, though.
    Regarding chickens, Bantams lay small eggs but are hardier and more self-sufficient than most larger breeds. And they are darn good at keeping evil bugs at bay.

  • No offense intended. I have my own version of sour grapes related to an abusive parent, with a PhD, who never fails to mention her title to anyone with ears. One who subsequently uses it to bash anyone/everyone under the sun (including medical doctors and nurses) over the head with her perceived superiority. Of course, this behavior has only become sad and absurd as the years have gone by and the “great, grande education” collected dust without any additional efforts to gain knowledge of any sort…molding away while the paper remained pristine and on display.
    I can’t tell you the sort of irony there is in waking, in the middle of the night, to your mother’s well-educated (summa cum laude no less…)hands around your throat. Only to have her sit on the end of the bed laughing at you after she relents and you cough and choke for breath. Or being locked up outside somewhere in the backyard, in a southwestern summer, with your shoes taken and the crazy bitch off threatening to kill herself while you struggle to get free and walk barefoot on asphalt in search of help…or what it’s like to seek help from people only to have her whip out her PhD in psychology…claiming you’re the nutty one…while she works arm in arm with CPS. Nor can I point out the fear in running away, sleeping on the streets, only to have her find you again down some alley, one night, trying to run you down with her car while you scream bloody murder hoping you’ll be just annoying enough to wake someone who might call the cops if only to have you shut up…hopefully before she hits you.
    So, I can’t say I’m free from prejudice on that point. My main thought is that actions speak louder than words, diplomas, or honors. Being humane and reasonably just go a lot farther in my book. I guess I should note that I’ve met janitors that were complete jackasses. And I’ve seen “common sense” wielded as a weapon of total nonsense.
    I guess, the only value I see at all in other people anymore is their ability to be humane. Of course, this leads to spending a lot of time disappointed, but it is the only measure of a person….at least that I can think of which is worth mentioning.

  • Gee wiz Charlene that is so sad.
    Unfortunately anybody can be a parent.
    The educated and the ill equipped.
    The wife has a cousin who is an anaesthetist,
    well he is the most ‘condescending bastard’ I know!
    I have said to the wife, this parenting gig is really
    difficult, and we have 12 years of uni education
    between us. As if to suggest we are reasonably
    intelligent, surely we can get our shit together
    and overcome the ‘trials and tribulations’ of
    parenthood. We often wonder how the less
    equipped manage when you can occasionally
    feel rage and frustration with the arguments
    and their non compliance. Obviously, I have made
    the lazy assumption that the educated are better at
    dealing with the issues or have the capacity to
    deal with their own emotional responses.
    (I guess you are describing a parent with a mental illness, which
    is very a complicated matter – understatement)
    I guess poo pooing education can be a form of reverse
    snobbery. My brother does it to me often. He is an
    electrician, he has his own business, well, his yearly profits –
    after he has paid himself, staff (1), all expenses, cars etc
    is about $200,000 – last July this was of course $200,000 US.
    Anyway in true self mocking style I tell him – 7 years at uni and
    $35kpa – woo hoo!. He shakes his head in disbelief, disappointment
    at the waste education represents to him (in his mind)
    and my very poor remuneration and ambition.
    But hey, I enjoyed my time writing essays on French Marxism
    and post modernity – Derrida, Lacan and semiotics – WTF!
    warm regards 🙂

  • Matt, as Wendy suggested, spearing fish in my part of the U.S. is frowned upon, even if I could find a place (and had the ability) to do it. I do have a bike, and have ridden it slightly more than I’ve golfed or flyfished in the past three years. But I haven’t made time to do any of the three often enough, which is why I can’t boast like my brother that I’m only 3 pounds above my high school graduation weight. I am a few pounds lighter than my college football weight, but am now shaped considerably differently than I was then. And also unlike Guy, I’m much weaker than in my youth–now it’s probably about all I can do to bench press a cutthroat trout or a 5-iron.

  • James,
    I was starting to ‘boof out’ when I was 35 (now 40),
    I was 84kg (185lbs), I am 183cm – 6ft.
    Which was apparently a fairly normal weight for my height.
    Anyway got on the bike when I was 37, now I am 70-71kg (155 lbs), I do slip below 70kg if I ride more than 300km (185miles) per week. (which is probably
    too light for my frame). As they say cyclists have the legs of a race horse
    and the torso of a 14 year old boy. The winner of the Tour De France weighs
    in at 60kg (132lbs).
    The wife thinks I look like a prey mantis – I don’t think this is a compliment!
    Her friends are impressed with my fitness, most of the husbands are
    over weight couch potatoes. Although lately the wife has been doing spin classes, she is slowly beginning to appreciate the fitness level required to race etc. Research has shown that there is something unique going on in the cycling action, ie the activities ability to shed lots of weight relatively quickly. Even modest amounts of cycling will shed the pounds.
    Never too late to improve ones fitness through cardio activities and weight training. There is up to 25 blokes I ride with on a Sunday morning, the age range is from 16 to 70. The 70 year old is currently in Finland competing in the
    masters games.
    Why is spear fishing frowned upon in the US?

  • Dear Charlene, I took no offense from your earlier comment. The topic of discussion simply gave me an opportunity to hop up on my lifelong soapbox. You and several others said it all better than I did anyway. And your mother would have been deranged with or without the letters behind her name. I am sorry you had to suffer such a childhood, and my hat is off to you for overcoming all that mess and growing up to be the caring, service-oriented person you are.
    Regarding fitness, if we are to live self-sufficient lifestyles we not only need to stay in good shape, but probably will naturally through hard physical work as Guy has discovered. Hey, maybe one good side effect of doom will be the slimming down of the American population. No one will be able to say “Supersize Me” if there are no more fast food chains!