Monday, April 18, 2011

On Fourth Thought--Volunteerism

Like other words, such as blow, queer and gay, and even the rainbow itself, the meanings of volunteer and volunteerism have been hijacked to mean something else.

Many schools require so many hours of "volunteer work" before a person can get the high school diploma. If you are being pushed with such a gun to your head, it is hardly a voluntary act. Of course, graduating at all might be considered voluntary, but these activities are done under duress and the education system knows it. School is now for more than imparting knowledge. It is there to serve meals, modify philosophical beliefs and force people to conform to a very narrow view of what constitutes an adult. Freedom fighters need not apply.

Volunteerism is the condition of doing things under one's own volition, by choice. It is a state of freedom, I would think. The antithesis of slavery.

I think the idea that volunteering to pick up roadside trash or to do whatever is considered civic minded by current standards is more noble than working at the local grocery store and doing a good job, is bunk. There is nothing more noble about it. It is nice that people see fit to make life better for someone else because they want to. But if it becomes a thing of pressuring others, and then calling it volunteerism, I don't buy into that scheme.

Now, it makes sense to force those who littered the road in the first place to clean it up. They were going outside the realm of their rights in that case. I've picked up a few bits of debris myself, but not in any organized clean up day effort--just because I found it annoying and thought I might as well do it. If someone had put a camera in my face and labeled me a civic minded volunteer, I would have done something obscene and then gone home immediately.

As a matter of fact, when such things are required, or funded by tax dollars which some would spend in another way, then I'd say it is actually the opposite of volunteerism. It is extortion.

Ever been pushed to contribute to the United Way or one of those on a job, knowing if you said no it would influence your job status, chances for promotion, and general security? I have. That is neither charity, in the true sense, or really voluntary. That is the old buy or die tactic so popular with organized crime.

That is all.

On Third Thought

This has nothing to do the the first or second thoughts below. That is how thoughts work. The actual relevance to the original problem or idea deteriorates as the thing travels through the mind. In my mind, it often takes a sudden turn, or jumps over to another dimension altogether.

In this case, the idea came that great people (what I consider great) do not tie themselves up in trivial concerns. I noticed it when I worked for people who had formed their own companies and achieved success. They employed many people, steered their companies to growth and expansion, and created really awesome work environments.

You always have personality conflicts and all that but the force behind the productive firm always seemed above the trivial conflicts. Their attention was on what mattered. Even when driving, I noticed that they did not take it personal when people did what they do on the highway by being inconsiderate or stupid. Just another obstacle to avoid or get around.

At the time I was more in the mode of wanting to rag on about "that idiot, bablabla". Then I realized that the most successful people in the vehicle were focussed more on where we were going and why, and chose not to waste energy on incidenta trivial resentments. Who knows if it totally carried through to their personal lives, but the focus on the important things in their careers was different from the average person.

And that brought to mind, however big a stretch, a video from 1959 which was recently brought to my attention between Mike Wallace and Ayn Rand. Mike was puffing on a cigarette.

Many people instantly tighten up and recoil at the mention of Ayn Rand or her book, Atlas Shrugged. I'm not one of those, although I understand why some people feel that way. It has a lot to do with how you look at it, and what you understand is the message. Like a lot of things, I take what I consider the best and leave the rest.

The remarkable thing about the interview is that she expressed a view that I have tried to express, yet Mike refused to acknowledge what she had said, framing the next question with the assumption she espoused the exact opposite. What she said was that when companies use and team up with government it is the worst of all systems. I agree with that.

What gets painted as capitalism is actually more a fascist condition. She described it some other way but it was clear that she held those who use government to facilitate their companies' gains in as much contempt as outright dictators. Companies, on their own, restricted from using force or fraud, do not have the ability to oppress and do all the things many associate with mean dirty CORPORATIONS.

To many people, just the word "corporation" has become a negative epithet. That is because what we have are companies which, due to the lack of limits on the power of government, have gained the power to influence when and where our military is used, influence how regulations are written--usually resulting in less competition, and to influence any manner of domestic policies and projects.

I found it interesting that Rand suggested that government had no business involved in economics. I kind of agree. So, where people have been given the idea that her books and philosophy throw a vote of approval to such corporations as GE and many others which are so entwined with government that one could never figure how to begin untying the knot, they have been mistaken.

It was kind of gratifying to me because I like it when someone says things with which I agree. I had never actually read or heard the sentiment so plainly stated in that interview. The issue of companies using government to help bully the public and competition is never discussed when history is taught or related matters are discussed. Instead, the idea that highly successful business is by nature evil and dishonest is put forth without drawing the distinction between outfits that simply do what they do well, and those which gain power and governmental favor.

We've gone so far down the road of control that it is not easy to find companies of size which can exist without the lobbyists and governmental gamesmanship. I've always thought it was not a good thing that government has become the biggest player and concern in most business operations.

The result is not the positive thing I've been told. Even charitable efforts have to filter through government approval due to the tax system. Individual initiative to help someone because that is what you want to do is actually discouraged because it pays better to drive past the guy bleeding in a ditch and throw some money at mosquito nets through an official charity. Of course, I do not believe it is the job of government to reward or punish free choice charitable efforts, or much else for that matter.

Anyway. Atlas Shrugged, in my view, was not intended to be the heartless, hateful outlook that many interpret it as being. The bottom line is that you don't have the right to force people to do what you want, or to take from them what is theirs by force, and that is what we've been doing while painting it as humane and beneficial. It is just a friggin book which had an uncanny sense of the language and attitudes that would become part of our culture. It held the view that these developments were an affront to human, individual rights. Many hold the view that these things somehow promote human rights.

In any case, I am surprised at the emotions Rand and her books trigger in people. But I am surprised by a lot.
Link to interview. There are two or three parts

It seems odd the fact that she escaped Russia at its worst is glossed over. I think she had a great fear of such a state.

On Second Thought

People are what they are. I'm not out to change them. I have enough trouble changing myself, and I do need to change some key elements.
So, if someone else's issues come into play where I have no intentional influence or effect, then it is just the way it is. They'll probably forget about it. Since I don't really get what it is, why worry?

If I ask myself if I would change members of my family, I can't say that I would. It may require a little dance here and there to avoid certain quirks or attitudes, but that is just how they want to be. It is not my job to write their scripts. When I feel like mine is somehow being written, I get defensive if I am caught by surprise. It's like finding out after the scene is played that I recited the wrong lines, and I never planned on being in the scene in the first place. Best reaction is the least reaction.

I suppose I did not like suddenly being on the spot in a circumstance which never crossed my mind. Hell, I'm a thousand miles or more away from the issue. There is absolutely no way to be true to myself and at the same time behave as if I am a normal person who likes to have a little pride in what family I have left. The difficulty here is not my doing. Plenty of other difficulties are and I choose to avoid owning any more dysfunction than I absolutely ought to.

When it comes down to it, this is a common black sheep syndrome. Even when you cast away the worst of what landed you at the bottom of the heap, the fact that you don't have a wall full of awards and credentials, a long and stable family life, or much else that anyone can brag about, cements your role as least respected, and secretly reviled--in an odd kind of way. I suppose it makes it worse when people who've known you all your life tend to indicate a greater appreciation for you than the ones who did everything right, have so much more to show for it, and feel they deserve greater affection and favor by virtue of such accomplishment.

How can I blame them? It is not uncommon for the ones who didn't stray from the path of least insanity to resent their siblings and others who screwed up, self destructed, and returned to life as if they were the prodigal sons, receiving the affection and approval the good ones feel they never get. The dynamic is probably more complex than the ones with the responsible track record realize, but I think they still wonder why, particularly in the case of siblings, the screw up gets coddled and forgiven so easily. If only they could be forever punished, or even banished, seems to be the underlying thought.

Sorry. It just doesn't work that way. It is hard for the upright members of a family to realize that accomplishment is its own reward, and lack of it, coupled with inexplicable bad judgement and self destruction is its own punishment beyond anything they can imagine---even if others in the family treat the black sheep with more affection than they deserve.

Maybe I am lucky that I can see and empathize with both conditions. I feel bad for being the perpetual screw up of my line. But I feel good that I changed as much of that as I have. It could have been much worse and odds were I'd never have lived to see the year 2000.

I'd much rather be in the position to look after all the others rather than be of little use other than that I seem to have the ability to help the various branches of the tree feel like they are worthy of affection and pride.

No More Mr Middleman

When my father was alive, and my mother was alive, I constantly battled the problem of being pushed into the position of middleman. If I happened to see or talk to my father, which was not that often, he would pump me for info about my mother--usually trying to find a way to alter is divorce agreement.

He'd also quiz me about my brother. Not that he didn't have the number.

Actually they all seemed to think it was cool to make me feel some guilt for not being at war with any of them, yet, in a way, it put me at war with all of them. My mother put me in the middle between her and my brother, and to a lesser degree, my father. My brother sometimes did it too. I do not think I put any of them in the middle nearly as much. Almost none at all. It really sucks. Seriously, this is not a good development.

Similar circumstances, different relationships, and I am not pleased. Oh my God, did I let some piece of news slip before the rest of my gene pool could announce it to some other subset of the same goddam gene pool? It is as if my very existence is an awful inconvenience to those who hold grudges over some hurt feelings or vision of wrongdoing of which I am no part and not really a witness. Secrets which make no damned sense are exactly what I grew up with, and what came closer than you'd believe to killing me.

The problem is that it causes conflict with my desire to not disappear from the face of the earth as far as blood kin are concerned. On one hand I do not care to be sucked into believing I have somehow betrayed people, which I haven't. But the only way to distance myself from that ridiculous drama is to do like I did a long time ago--avoid, leave no forwarding address, and keep my phone number to myself.

A little late I guess but I do most of the calling when calling happens. All the calling, actually. I guess the only emails not initiated by me have to do with implications that my existence has created inconvenience. It would be denied, but it is there.

Maybe some in my family just can't stand it if I enjoy anyone else in my family. I think that may have always been the case. Hate me because others don't. I really thought we were past this.

Wallace clearly was ignorant of the fact that majority rule itself is not a holy grail, and that there are supposedly limits on democracy. Otherwise we could all vote that Bill Gates, George Soros, and all other billionaires give all their money to men like me.

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Ballistic Mountain, CA, United States
Like spring on a summer's day


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