Sunday, February 14, 2010

The 5-year plan

I don’t recall being asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. It was assumed that I would marry a returned missionary and be a stay-at-home mom. The Mormon girl’s dream. As such, my husband would work and I would not have to worry about my own career. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Let me explain what I see as one of the fatal flaws in the traditional feminist movement, i.e. the choice to be a stay-at-home mom is frowned upon. Or, that it is not really seen as work. My sister and my sister-in-law are both stay-at-home moms and each have four children. I would not want their job; they work just as hard as their counterpart who brings home the bacon. Now, I’m all with my sister suffragists and I agree, at least intellectually, anything you can do I can do better. But to choose to be a stay-at-home mom is just as novel as choosing to be a stay-at-home dad. As long as both individuals in the particular relationship are in agreement. Yep. Yep.
However, that is not how it happened for me. Nope, that’s not my story. Since I was never asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I never really thought about it. Oh, I had little girl dreams of being a ballerina or an actress… As I wandered through community college after high school, I finally decided to major in Anthropology because I thought it would hold my attention long enough for me to graduate. It was important for me to get my bachelors, but I had no plans for life after graduation. I knew I loved to travel, but that is an expensive avocation. I moved to Los Angeles after graduation on a coin toss. That and my older brother already lived out there. I randomly, and very fortunately, landed a job in Beverly Hills which taught me a skill: bookkeeping. It turns out I am not only good at it, but I actually enjoy it, and it introduced me to Ed. We met in the hallway at work, a month before his company moved out of the building. I think Ed really saved me in Los Angeles in a way, saved me from what L.A. could have done to me or what I might have become.
Ed would often ask me what my long-term goals were. I’d reply that I didn’t have any, or they were completely vague. Going back to school crossed my mind from time to time, but with no particular subject in mind. Well, underwater archaeology, maybe. The past few months Ed and I have been in deep discussion about these things. I took an on-line career/personality assessment test. My strongest working style was authoritative, and my strongest working field was administrative. I have often been told I would be very good at the top if I could just get there. In high school, when I worked at Wal-Mart, the store manager sat me down and told me I could go as far as I wanted to go in the company, if I could just curb my eccentric behavior. I quit a few months later because I believe I shouldn’t have to curb my eccentric behavior. You’ve got great potential I was told. Well, what good is potential? Potential for what? It’s only as good as you make it out to be. Mine was an aimless potential.
In mine and Ed’s conversations we’ve come to the conclusion that I, being twenty years younger with a longer career in front of me, really have the greater earning potential in the long run. However, we should make my credentials a little more bona fide and my skill set a little more bankable. That means in the short run, incurring the expenses to send me back to school. It’s a hard three year road I’m looking at. One that if I start I must finish. That will be my goal, my first official timeline structured goal.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

off with the old

I started thinking some good things last night and this morning. Things to write about, write all about it. Write about Ed cutting his hair. Hopefully a lot of his anger and bitterness went with it. He’s let it grow for the past year, and what a year he and his hair went through. Ed has probably had a more difficult time than I have this past year. I understand his bitterness, but at the same time I can’t help him get over it, he has to do that himself. And while I have, at least lately, been rather happy and having a good outlook on life, that becomes hard to sustain in the face of someone who consistently points out all the bullshit. And it’s all bullshit, folks. We turned off the news for awhile. When we turned it back on we changed the channel, we now watch the News Hour with Jim Leher. I feel they go into a little more depth. But still, we sit there and listen to the bullshit going on, and all the aging-balding-silver-haired-white-politicians who aren’t going to lift a finger to help improve society, and who aren’t going to attempt to change anything about the status-quo, because the status-quo is what got them to where they are in the first place.
When he stops to think about it, he gets really angry. Angry at his ex-business partners who shafted him. Angry that at almost fifty he has to start over. Ed is having a much harder time finding a job than I am. While I have gotten a fair response to my resumes, and a few jobs, Ed has received only one phone interview that led nowhere. It is very demoralizing for him, especially when he interacts with employees who are completely incompetent. He comes home fuming, “how do these clueless idiots get a job? I’m a UCLA grad, and this moron has to ask me how to spell ‘Edward.’ How are they employed and I can’t even get a call back?!” And what can I say in response? If he looks for mellow low-paying jobs, people upon seeing his resume are like why are YOU going for a job like THIS?
But since he cut his hair, he has been slightly more optimistic. Times are tough, but they are tough for a lot of people. And while we don’t have as much as some, we have more than most of the population on this planet. I mean, what are the poor souls in Haiti having to deal with? And we are complaining about having to cancel our cable TV? While I have high hopes for our individual outlook, I do not believe that over all the economy is improving for the general populace, or that it will. There are too many fundamental problems.
Situational updates: Ed and I are moving again, this time it’s around the corner and down the block. Hopefully, this is our last more for a while. I got a seasonal job at a CPA firm, helping them through tax season and I’ve realized I really like working with a lot of little numbers. By little, I do not mean quantitatively, I mean small. So now we are contemplating me moving forward to obtain my CPA license. It’s back to the U of A, on my way to a CPA, three years away.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

My response, a continuation

I must confess, I have never read Howard Zinn. But now I intend to. There was one more comment I wanted to respond to, but I felt my last post was getting too long. The comment was made on ‘it’s not polite to talk about politics.’ Something to the effect that corporations that have to make a profit must on some level provide what the general population desires, while the government just forces taxes on us and they will spend it doing whatever they want.
Ed and I were watching the news the other night, and there was a segment on how Obama's budget cuts funding for NASA. One of the NASA directors was on saying how horrible that was and how important space travel is to ours country's prestige. That is one man's opinion on how our tax dollars should be spent.
One thing that kills me in the health care debate is people saying they don’t want their taxes to pay for other people’s health needs. To that I say, I can name a whole host of things I don’t want my tax dollars going to. I don’t want any of my tax dollars going to Iraq or Afghanistan. I don’t want any of my tax dollars going to the CIA or any covert operations that they engage in. I don’t want my tax dollars to subsidize corn, or to bailout big banks. I don’t mind my tax dollars going to fix roads, or educate children, or maintaining our national parks. And I would not mind my tax dollars going towards providing everyone in the country with adequate healthcare. While we’re at it, let’s shift the health care focus from reactive to proactive. Let’s stress being healthy. Eat well and exercise.
Another thing I find interesting is, (I got this information off a 2007 congressional report that cited 2004 numbers), the US government spends more per capita on health care than any other country in the OECD. The OECD is the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development; it consists of 30 democratic countries that are considered the most economically stable. The US government spent $6,102 per person, more than DOUBLE the OECD average. I would like to point out that a lot of the countries in the organization have universal coverage. How is it that other countries can provide all of their citizens coverage for less than what we pay not providing for all of our citizens?
This brings me to another one of my big questions about humanity. Can a bureaucracy be efficient? Is that possible? First let’s look at the general reasons we find them to be inefficient. Well, they run on tax dollars that are given to them, not earned by them, with no one there who really cares about the bottom line. They are generally top heavy organizations that rely on extensive paperwork. And the employees are generally incapable of deviating from that paperwork. I always say that the one thing that college really taught me is how to have a piece of paper signed by four different people and retuned to the first. And here is the second question, can big corporations be efficient? In the brief time I worked for a national investment bank in Oregon I found them to be just as top heavy, just as bogged down in paperwork, and the people with the company purchasing power have no real stake in the company and don’t care about the bottom line either. Look at all the Wall Street execs who were bonusing themselves out millions while their company was losing money. The CEO’s, who again have no skin in the game, jump off the sinking ship with their golden parachute, over to the next company and starting the game over again. While the shareholders are left seeing their investments diminish. How efficient is it to disenchant your customer base by routing their calls to Bangladesh, causing them to speak to someone with whom they are mutually unintelligible? I said to one of them once, ‘I realize they tell you what you are speaking is English, but you cannot understand me and I can not understand you. Let me speak with a supervisor’ How efficient is it to ignore the signs of changing times, and to dig one’s heals in while refusing to change and adapt, e.g. like the auto companies?
What about corporations providing what customers want? Most of the time these companies come up with a new product, and then through advertising, convince the public they need it. Take the pharmaceutical industry, continually coming up with a new drug for ailments people never knew they had. Or inventing new ailments that humans have never had in the past. Like ADHD, which I don’t believe really exists; it wasn’t until the 1960s when Ritalin came out, and the 1990s when prescription medication really took off, that it came out that all these children had ADHD. What about the hundreds of generations before them? Did they have overwhelming occurrences of ADHD? No, just like the millions of children that don’t have it now, but the company came up with this drug, and they intend to sell it. Let’s look more broadly at all the psychotropic drugs on the market and ask ourselves why is it that millions of Americans feel the need to drug themselves in order to cope with life? Prior to all these medications people just drank martini’s. And how hypocritical is it that we tell the public that they can take all the little blue pills they want, as long as they were prescribed by a physician, but don’t you dare smoke marijuana or peyote, don’t you dare take mushrooms or any of the other NATURAL occurring mind-altering substances. No, they would rather us take chemical compounds put together in a lab. What’s up with that? Why don’t we trust the natural world, perhaps it’s because that’s what the pagans worshipped? Is it that we think we are smarted than nature, the same nature that provided adequately for our predecessors? I have no answers for you.
I mentioned in my last post how BOTH parties in a conflict bear responsibility. We Americans (which is really just the latest incarnation of Rome) are taught to believe that we are Number 1. That we are the best, that all our motives are magnanimous, that we are the doer of good deeds throughout the world. This is simply not true. The decimation of our native population, the enslaving of the African race, the Japanese interment camps of WWII, our current treatment of homosexuals, the prejudice against Middle Eastern people, these are all bad things that we have done. Like our current action in Afghanistan, what do we think we are going to accomplish there? Genghis Khan couldn’t conquer them, he British couldn’t do anything, the Russians couldn’t do anything, so what are we going to be able to do? Also the notion that we are number 1 implies that we are the best in every possible way. There is no room for growth with that opinion, which is why as a country we have become stagnant and are beginning to collapse.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Regarding my response

A few months ago I received a couple of comments on this blog that I wanted to respond to. It was part of what has been brewing in my silence. I felt one comment, on my ideas about the universe in a nutshell, was dismissive. I would like to take an opportunity to discuss some points in no particular order. Moreover, these points drive home some of the basic questions about humanity I wrestle with.
What do I do with the notion that there is ‘evil’ in the world? People like Hitler, Stalin, Mao, who, for no reason other than their warped world-view, caused the death of millions, massive suffering, and were generally not nice people. Or other people who today I am told, hate me because of my freedom and my lack of adherence to their radical religious views, and who would kill me if they could. So I ask myself, “Is it possible to breed out hate”? Is hate an innate emotion? Would it occur in a vacuum? Hate stems from fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of competition, fear of death. I believe fear is an innate human emotion. “Fight or flight” and the adrenaline that flows from it is one of the traits that kept our species alive. However, the difference between fear and hate… I think hate is a taught trait, but a trait that has been taught to the human race for a very very long time. When generation upon generation, insofar as oral legend or written records can attest, have ‘hated’ another group, is it possible to un-teach that lesson? I’m not sure it is, at least not while each side is generally still engaging in the actions that cause the fear to turn to hatred in the first place. Yes, both sides. Rarely is a conflict one-sided.
We are all products of our environment. Let’s look at Hitler. Why? Because he is the one I know the most about, having studied the Third Reich. Hitler, in his youth, wanted to be an artist. He applied for art school in Vienna and got rejected. And how different would human history be if Hitler had been able to pursue his passion for painting? Would he have become the evil murdering madman we all know him as? While the Nazi party was formed in the early 20’s, the movement began to loose steam by mid-decade. As Germany was living some of the Roaring Twenties and was gaining economic security, the Nazi’s message of who to blame for the struggle fell on deaf ears. It wasn’t until the Stock Market crash of 1929 which resulted in Germany’s economy completely collapsing that the Nazi message took off like a hot air balloon, catapulting Hitler to power. So here are two events that if they had, or had not happened, may have changed the course of history. There is one other point I want to make, and then I’m done talking about Hitler. If Hitler had just been some lunatic, digging through trash cans and muttering to himself about the ‘damn Jews’ and reveling in his evilness, would the holocaust have been his end result? No. He had legions of people under him to carry out his commands. He left much of the administrative duties and some of the decision making up to others in leadership. There were many people, including those citizens who went along with the status quo, working of their own free will supporting the policies. One last thing to think about, if the world had not put so many reparations on Germany after WWI, especially when it was the Austrian Empire that had started the war, maybe the country never would have the economic hardships that lead to the rise of such radical ideas.
And just as a general note, the winners write the history books, and those books never mention how many people they killed, or it’s usually just mentioned anecdotally. How convenient.
On a different note, a comment was made regarding the idea that everything cannot be made locally. I would like to say a few things and I will try to keep them short. I did not say EVERYTHING, I said anything that could, and I think a lot could, even cars and refrigerators. It is more a mater of logistics rather than of ability. Once upon a time everything that a community needed was produced locally. But then the big box stores that could mass import goods for less came to town, and instead of going to the mom and pop who have been providing goods on a local level, we go with cheapness and convenience. Slowly the local factories and production slows as jobs are moved overseas, to employ people who work for pennies on our dollar. Eventually those crafts and skills are lost and we forget that we were capable in the first place.
One final comment, I do have peace in my life. But instead of thanking the military and police force I give the thanks to a loving family, a supportive husband, and my own self-esteem.