Author, social philosopher, historian, and speaker Roman Krznaric is one of my most favorite writers. I have utilized much of his work in my blog-posts, especially his writing, theories, and organizations promoting a more significant, impactful life with friends, family, coworkers, and community. On Roman’s website he writes an intriguing, thought-provoking article about the modern signs of returning, rising city-states similar to that of 14th – 17th century Renaissance Era”s Venice and Florence, Italy. Are there more advantages than disadvantages to this possible/probable trend?
City-State vs. Nation-state
Britannica.com defines city-state as “a political system consisting of an independent city having sovereignty over contiguous territory and serving as a centre and leader of political, economic, and cultural life.” There is a large consensus that the term does apply to at least three different modern cities: Singapore, Monaco, and Vatican City. What distinguishes the three city-states comparatively are their higher degrees of sovereign autonomy.
Singapore is considered one of the most successful, happiest city-states in the world
A nation-state according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary is “a form of political organization under which a relatively homogeneous people inhabits a sovereign state; especially : a state containing one as opposed to several [ethnicities and] nationalities.” Naming examples of nation-states is not an exact science. It is hotly debated due to the many complexities that make up a nation or a state. Dr. Atul Kohli of Princeton University describes them as “Legitimate states that govern effectively and dynamic industrial economies are widely regarded today as the defining characteristics of a modern nation-state.” Perhaps what differentiates the nation-state from other forms of governing is to what degree it utilizes its complex social, cultural, and economic instruments in unison. Historically these factors morph and change, further fueling contrasting debates. For instance, does a culture of North and South or Confederacy/Union still exist today in the “nation-state” called United States? What does a current approval rating of only 17% for the U.S. Congress indicate?
John Fullerton, founder and president of Capital Institute and contributor to Huffington Post, explains our current nation-states this way:
Ideological rather than pragmatic, a political abstraction that has no grounding in the concrete reality of where and how we live and how life-supporting ecosystems function, the Nation State, together with its political party structure, is not well equipped for today’s most important globally interdependent challenges that cannot be solved through inter-State rivalries where self-interest and might rule the day.
The “City State” predates the Nation State; it endures. Rome is older than Italy, Alexandria is older than Egypt. Cities are expanding as we know. They are already home to more than half the world’s population, and 80% in the developed economies. They are home to 85% of the global economy (and associated greenhouse gas emissions) and much of the evolution of our culture. Like it or not, we have become an increasingly urban species. Visionaries like Jonathan Rose are showing the way to regenerative cities with his timely publication of A Well-Tempered City. At the same time, rural culture, small towns, and life-sustaining rural landscapes, historically understood as essential extensions of the City State, have never been more vital…
Film producer Sharon Chang is optimistic of a more pronounced city-state political, economic, and cultural movement that is more quickly in tune with its citizen’s needs and unleash their ingenuity.
Our political, educational, and industrial systems to date have been designed to operate with constraint rather than abundance. These systems encourage and reward behaviors defined by a zero-sum attitude. Even the most brilliant innovations have been limited within the mindset of arbitrary, war-born lines on centuries-old maps. For some reason, they’re untouchable. We’d never dare to think — let alone color — outside the lines.
When we put modern industry and technology into a new design of city-state, we cross-pollinate two extremely powerful concepts: exponential growth and diversity. We forge a path of least resistance to true abundance.
In Krznaric’s article The Return of the City State, he cites three contributing factors for the modern rise/need of the city-state. His last and most compelling factor is that nation-states are no longer well-structured for adaptability:
They have failed to deal effectively with issues arising from migration, climate change, wealth inequality and terrorism. This failure partly explains the declining faith in traditional political parties in many countries and in the value of democratic government itself. But it is also behind the rise of cities, which are much more effective at pragmatic problem-solving on issues ranging from flood management to dealing with increasing numbers of refugees.
These are all valid arguments for the removal or reduction of nation-states and the need for a modern return to city-states — that is “valid” in a perfect world of equality, extensive understanding, and overall peace.
Fall of Athens, 404 BCE
The Historical Record of City-States
Probably the most notable city-states in history were those of ancient Greece: Athens, Corinth, Sparta, and Thebes. Others were those of Mesoamerica: Chichen Itza, Copán, Monte Albán, Tikal, and then the cities, or metropoles, of Renaissance Italy like Florence, Genoa, Milan, Pisa, Venice and several others. Though it can be argued that these cities far outlasted their empires which surrounded them and subjugated them — several are still in existence today — they lacked the natural and human resources to defend themselves against large empires or nation-states. Almost every single historical city-state has fallen to mega-states or empires at least once, in certain cases several times.
If our modern world is to return to forms of city-states, hence allowing freer ingenuity and progress, yet weakening or hollowing out present nation-states, how do we avoid the envious big bullies around the corner or on the next continent? Do we make “unbreakable” alliances with all other progressive city-states around the globe to come quickly to our rescue if Goliath attacks? Is that even possible? Will there ever come a day when all imperialistic-minded, narcissistic megalomaniac males are extinct or psychologically pathologically reprogrammed and their potential gullible (like-minded?) masses or followers redirected?
As a diverse species, are we ready internationally for this sort of change or return to a much more localized form of mercantilism, culture, technology, and governing?
Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always
In Part I the various forms of ignorance raised five studied categories with applicable questions. For example, when does knowledge create ignorance? Ignorance for whom? Against whom? Selection and suppression are key factors influencing rise, stagnation, or fall among civilizations, organizations, or families. Recognizing how certain tactics impact you and those people goes a long way toward composing, testing, and restructuring the best available actions and reactions benefitting, as best as possible, the greater good. As A.B. Hill elaborates:
“All scientific work is incomplete — whether it be observational or experimental. All scientific work is liable to be upset or modified by advancing knowledge. That does not confer upon us a freedom to ignore the knowledge we already have, or to postpone actions that it appears to demand at a given time.
Who knows, asked Robert Browning… [truthfully], but on available evidence most of us make ready to commute on the 8:30 next day.”
These are the wonderful rewards of living and working within a free open-system of inquiry, probabilities, plausibilities, and collective consensus! There is typically more — more accuracy in knowledge, more progress, and more accountability. As a slight apology, I realize this Part II post reached over 5,100 words. On the contrary, its content is so critical, so vastly unknown today by the general American public that I just could not reduce its word-count anymore than I have. I hope you’ll understand why when finished reading.
As I mentioned in Part I, in this post I am stepping extensively into manufactured uncertainty and ignorance, as well as into some women’s social and political issues, their implied status now and treatment throughout history with regard to learned forms of ignorance. However, I will do my best to allow women like Dr. Nancy Tuana and other highly credible female experts to do the talking as much as possible. Experience has taught me in the arena of Feminism, as a bumbling male at times, this is a wise and healthier approach. 😀
∞ ∞ ∞ § ∞ ∞ ∞
In the world of athletic sporting events such as the Olympics, or the FIFA World Cup—both held only every four years—during the ensuing three years between, excitement and anticipation build to a fever pitch. In American sports in 2016 the three major pro leagues of football, baseball, and basketball raked in a mind-boggling $27.3-billion in revenues. Viewing the HowMuch.net infographic below it is easy to see just how much in dollars and socioeconomic values professional sports and their fans impact the entire globe.
In those stadiums and arenas of competition, both in the front and back offices, locker rooms, television broadcasting and sponsorships, in sports pubs and bars, and family homes, with that much annual revenues and profits flowing, how well do you think it would go over (to everyone in sports concerned) if none of these leagues, franchises, owners, players, and administrative offices had any sort of referees, umpires, or league policies and procedures? Zero. Would it upset some fans? To remain successful and winning, how would players and owners react to no enforcement of any league or game rules? Would parity exist? For how long might it exist?
Whether on the field of competitive sports or in the daily market-place, unchecked, all the worst human faults and ugly behaviors would run wild. Dog-eat-dog and survival of the fittest as they say… or rather the smartest, quickest, and most cunning would soon dominate. Those born disadvantaged would have dreadful, bleak, survival odds. Like it or not, the world and each of us NEED referees and umpires of integrity to keep the playing field equal and fair not just for survival, but for the innate right of livelihood for all.
Consequences of Deregulation or No Regulation The effects and impact of regulation, deregulation, or no regulation are never more central than in protecting the domains of public health and its environment where our health resides. This is more crucial for those who are disadvantaged and gullible, for unique reasons, and therefore are susceptible to acts of diversion and deceit. Following are five historical cases Dr. David Michaels, PhD, published concerning manufactured uncertainty and sustained ignorance.
Tobacco, Disease, and Doubt — in the early 1950’s as health researchers were discovering and publishing the negative effects of smoking, the tobacco industry launched major campaigns of counter-measures. “Doubt is our product” was one primary rallying cry directed to The Tobacco Institute, the industry’s voice or bullhorn defense against medical science as instructed via memorandum from Hill & Knowlton, Inc., one of the industry’s major public relations firms. With millions of dollars invested from large and small tobacco companies into these doubt campaigns, the success set the precedent for future successes against other scientific communities and their protection of public health and the environment, such as the effects of climate change.
VIOXX — and Merck. Before the FDA could approve Merck’s blockbuster pain-relief rofecoxib hit drugstore shelves, health professionals were finding and reporting in 1999, 2000, and 2004 the drug increased the risks of heart disease. With 88,000 – 139,000 heart attacks (30% – 40% fatal) attributed to rofecoxib, over four years later the drug was finally banned in November 2004. “On Friday, a Texas jury found Merck liable for the death of Robert C. Ernst, who died in May 2001 after taking Vioxx” reported the New York Times journalist. During the case it was found that Merck executives knew of the increased cardiac risks, but intentionally mislead physicians and the FDA in numerous documented company communications.
Beryllium — is a rare element in our universe produced by cosmic ray collisions. It increases the yield of nuclear explosions and thus has been highly valued in the U.S. production of weapons systems throughout the Cold War. As is corroborated by InvestorIntel.com, U.S. weapons manufacturers today dominate the beryllium market at more than 87% share of the world output. The revenues and profits are naturally a guiding economic force and investor’s criteria. The downside to beryllium manufacturing is exposure and lung disease, known as Chronic Beryllium Disease. Once again because of precedents set, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and the DOE (Department of Energy) were constantly misinformed by the Department of Defense and funding-PR work by Brush-Wellman (now Materion Corp) the leading U.S. producer of beryllium products, that CBD-exposure was below hazard-standards and sporadic. Floor supervisors at Brush-Wellman were told by executives that when asked about CBD-exposure answer news reporters with more questions and uncertainty. This tactic leads us to another well-funded doubt campaign: PPA.
Phenylpropanolamine (PPA) — this particular case with PPA manufacturers and the federal Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is a glaring use of well-funded misdirection and selling doubt. In the early 1970’s young females began suffering from hemorrhagic strokes when taking PPA. When these strokes were reported to the Mayo Clinic, only 20-years later did the FDA begin looking into the safety of the drug. Why 20-years? The manufacturers of PPA — organized together as the NDMA — were denying it was their drug causing the hemorrhagic strokes. They had hired and funded Yale University School of Medicine to study the effects of PPA. They also constructed the study to be approved by the FDA. In October 1999 when the results were finalized, the Yale study confirmed the link between PPA and hemorrhagic strokes. Did the NDMA remove the drug from pharmacy shelves? No. Instead they hired the Weinberg Group to attack the Yale study and science. The annual sales of PPA were well over $500-million despite over 200-500 men and women suffering strokes between ages 18 and 49 using the drug. These tactics stalled the removal of PPA from the market long enough (in 2000) to redesign them for a ready-made replacement that kept the flow of profits going — at the expense of crippled or deceased consumers. On their company website the Weinberg Group gloated* about their success for the NDMA.
The Funding Effect that $500-million in sales for an industry can elicit against protective science is a modern corporate tactic never to be ignored or taken lightly.
Funding Effect & BPA — When there is a close correlation between the desired results of a study by a study’s funders and the reported results of that study, it is called the funding effect. Dr. Richard Smith, M.D., a member of CBE and former editor of the British Medical Journal explains:
“Why are pharmaceutical companies getting the results they want? … The companies seem to get the results they want not by fiddling the results, which would be far too crude and possibly detectable by peer review, but rather by asking the “right” questions — and there are many ways to do this [see list below] … There are many ways to hugely increase the chance of producing favourable results, and there are many hired guns who will think up new ways and stay one jump ahead of peer reviewers.” — Medical Journals Are an Extension of the Marketing Arm of Pharmaceutical Companies, by Dr. Richard Smith, May 2005
With regard to BPA, an environmental estrogen used in polycarbonate plastic found in canned foods and dental sealants, exposure to low doses of the poly-plastic was found to alter human endocrine functions. At the time there were many conflicting reports. In response to the negative reports, the American Plastics Council employed the services of the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis to dispute the reports and found that the effects of BPA exposure were inconclusive. A separate group of scientists felt the HCRA study was too small given the number of studies already done. When reexamining the some 115 separate assessments of BPA exposure conducted in addition to the much smaller samples by the HCRA, the conclusions were drastically different! What was found to be more disturbing was…
“90% (94 of 104) of the studies paid for with government funds reported an effect associated with BPA exposure; not a single one of the 11 corporate funded studies found an effect.” — Protecting Public Health in the Age of Contested Science and Product Defense, David Michaels, Ph.D., M.P.H., Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, pp. 156-157
A New Regulatory Paradigm The debates, controversies surrounding corporate funding-effects versus independent science, the millions-to-billions of dollars involved, and the risks posed to public health and our environment has created another industry niche that could be termed as Product Manufacturing Defense. In recent years these law and consulting firms have popped up to oppose independent science panels they label as “Private Surgeon Generals.” Here is one such lucrative strategy the firm of Morrison & Foerster LLP in New York, NY advertises and utilizes:
“Private Surgeons General seek to force manufacturers and retailers of food, consumer and household products to post Surgeon General-like warnings, change package labels and advertising and refund hundreds of millions of dollars to unharmed and otherwise perfectly happy consumers who purchased perfectly healthful and untainted products. Why? Because a substance shown in the ingredient list is claimed to be dangerous or a statement in the product advertising or label is claimed to be misleading.”
In the fight to return and maintain the scientific integrity in federal policymaking, the Union of Concerned Scientists published their January 2017 report detailing why more transparency is needed due to past conduct between manufacturers, agencies, science, and their possible bias. No records of gross misconduct are greater, writes the UCS, than what took place during George W. Bush’s administration:
“Bush administration officials manipulated, misrepresented, and suppressed inconvenient data and censored experts. They systematically chose science advisors based on ideology rather than scientific credentials, they prevented federal scientists from sharing their research and expertise, and they rewrote scientific reports to help justify predetermined policy decisions.
The evidence is clear: when policymakers undermine science, the public is left with laws and regulations that leave them exposed to unnecessary danger.”
It is very apparent that some/many industry-related research is not published, or distorted, or delayed until financially-covering alternatives are in place at the expense of health and/or environmental risks and consequences, some irreversible. Government laws and regulations—our referees and umpires of the highest integrity—must be in place for pure independent research and results to be readily accessible. More importantly, to offer the public and our environment parity-protection from well-funded Congressional lobbyists and biased product defense firms, our federal agencies such as OSHA and the EPA must have the best impartial, scientific information available! A two-way street of the funding for the science and possible conflicts of interest encourages transparency and integrity for these agencies to make informed regulatory policy-decisions.
In many ways Western civilization has only just departed the Dark Ages concerning women’s necessary place in all of society. The lethargy belongs squarely on two agents: Men and ignorance. For over a millenia, going back to ancient Greece, any mental or emotional “peculiarities” of a woman’s behavior would be diagnosed as hysteria by doctors; and all doctors were male. It was believed the hysteria was caused by a disorderly wandering uterus. This irregular behavior, as the story goes, led to the invention of the vaginal vibrators as treatment! Until the 21st century some of Emily Dickinson’s passionate works were little known, suppressed by men in positions of power:
“Wild nights — Wild nights! Were I with thee Wild nights should be Our luxury!
Futile – the winds – To a Heart in port – Done with the Compass – Done with the Chart!
Rowing in Eden – Ah – the Sea! Might I but moor – tonight – In thee!”
Her publisher was horrified and distraught over whether to publish those first four lines due to “social norms” of 1860’s patriarchal puritan America.
By the 1800’s male doctors noticed the time-correlation between “hysteria” and PMS. By the 1900’s male doctors and medical societies were linking menstrual insanity with tuberculosis and sexual molestation. Fortunately, modern medical science has greatly dispelled the myths concerning women’s bodies, but there is a long bumpy road still ahead with respect to eliminating all the ignorance.
Dr. Nancy Tuana reasons that what a group or person knows cannot fully be appreciated unless the unknowns are equally appreciated and who the knowledge or ignorance benefits or handicaps. It is an area that Dr. Tuana says:
“Female sexuality is a particularly fertile area for tracking the intersections of power/knowledge-ignorance. Scientific and commonsense knowledge of female orgasm has a history that provides a rich lens for understanding the importance of explicitly including epistemologies of ignorance alongside our theories of knowledge.”
Dr. Tuana closely examines seven subjects concerning women’s bodies and pleasures for a contemporary understanding: Epistemologies of Orgasms, Unveiling the Clitoris, Fingering Truth, The Issue of Pleasure, The Either/Or of Women’s Orgasms, Sisterhood Is Powerful, and finally Bodies and Pleasures. As mentioned before, I will let Dr. Tuana do most of the speaking and attempt to single out her key points within the first three areas.
Epistemologies of Orgasms The 19th century constructed and taught that sex, and women’s bodies and pleasures were a “problem of truth.” Dr. Tuana goes on…
“Can my investigations of the power dimensions of ignorance concerning women’s orgasms not fall prey to a constructed desire for the “truth of sex”?
…The bodies of my attention are those of women; the pleasures those of orgasm. But bodies and pleasures are not outside the history and deployment of sex-desire. Bodies and pleasures will not remove me, the epistemic subject, from the practice of desiring truth. Bodies and pleasures, as [Michel] Foucault well knew, have histories. Indeed the bodies that I trace are material-semiotic interactions of organisms, environments, cultures. Bodies and their pleasures are not natural givens, not even deep down. Nor do I believe in a true female sexuality hidden deep beneath the layers of oppressive socialization. But women’s bodies and pleasures provide a fertile lens for understanding the workings of power/knowledge-ignorance in which we can trace who desires what knowledge; that is, we can glimpse the construction of desire (or lack thereof) for knowledge of women’s sexuality. I also believe that women’s bodies and pleasures can, at this historical moment, be a wellspring for resisting sexual normalization.”
Hence, Dr. Tuana begins with the clitoris.
Unveiling the Clitoris Remarkably most adults in America, including university campuses, know more about the penis than they do about women’s genitalia and pleasures. In her many years of teaching at Penn State University, when Dr. Tuana has asked her students to sketch a drawing (from memory) of a woman’s internal and external sexual organs they are vague and typically exclude the clitoris.
“This pattern of knowledge-ignorance mirrors a similar pattern in scientific representations of female and male genitalia. Although the role of the clitoris in female sexual satisfaction is scientifically acknowledged, and well-known by most of us, the anatomy and physiology of the clitoris, particularly its beginnings and ends, is still a contested terrain. A brief history of representations of the clitoris provides an interesting initial entry into the epistemology of ignorance.
As I and many other theorists have argued, until the nineteenth century, men’s bodies were believed to be the true form of human biology and the standard against which female structures — bones, brains, and genitalia alike — were to be compared. The clitoris fared no differently. Medical science held the male genitals to be the true form, of which women’s genitals were a colder, interior version.
Even after the “two-sex” model became dominant in the nineteenth century, with its view of the female not as an underdeveloped male but as a second gender with distinctive gender differences, the clitoris got short shrift. It was often rendered a simple nub, which though carefully labeled, was seldom fleshed out or made a focus of attention.”
Not until the 1980’s did women’s health take another grand step forward in medical science. “…the clitoris expanded in size and configuration to include three structures: the shaft, the glans, and the crura.” Yet, this new expansion still fell short.
“But none of these [medical] texts focuses attention on coming to understand the sexual response patterns of these and other bits. Feminist imagery diverges significantly from nonfeminist in providing us far more detailed views of the impact of sexual stimulation on the glans and crura of the clitoris, as well as the labia majora and the bulbs of the vestibule, the latter of which possess a very extensive blood vessel system that becomes very engorged during arousal, doubling, even tripling in size, we are told, during sexual arousal… The always-found illustrations of male erections… are now accompanied by an illustration of female erections, …something absent in nonfeminist texts. Feminist texts also lovingly detail the other bits that are part of our seat of delight. Reminding us that the clitoris, impressive though it be, is not our only sensitive bit, feminists also provide us with images of the urethral sponge that lies between the front wall of the vagina and the urethra, which expands with blood during sexual arousal… It was this structure that was allegedly “discovered” with Columbus-like gusto (Christopher, this time, not Renaldus) by Ernst Graffenburg and popularized as the “G-spot.” Although a few nonfeminist anatomical illustrations, post-Graffenburg, provide us glimpses of this pleasurable sponge, apparently neither they nor Graffenburg have gotten the hang of the feminist speculum, for they continue to overlook feminist presentations of the other sponge, the perineal sponge located between the vagina and the rectum, which also engorged when a woman is sexually aroused… Pressure on any of these engorged structures can result in pleasure and orgasm.”
Thus, clearly the clitoris and her compliments are far more than a simple nub.
Fingering Truth How has the clitoris historically and socially remained as a mere nub? Because I am male I think it more wise to yield the floor to Dr. Tuana in her own words. She explains:
“Despite fifteen years of clear illustrations of this [modern] view of clitoral structures, our impact has been surprisingly minimal, at least so far. A review of anatomical illustrations in standard college human sexuality textbooks reveals a surprising lack of attention to the functions and structures of the clitoris. No surprise, then, that my students have, at best, a passing knowledge of the depths and complexity of its structures.
There is a politics of ignorance at work here, one that is linked to the politics of sex and reproduction… There has been little dispute from the Greeks to the present of the importance of male pleasure and ejaculation for conception. In contrast, the question of female seed and the link between it and female pleasure was always a point of controversy… Women’s sexual pleasure came to be seen as inessential to reproduction, although many scholars admitted that it might be useful in promoting the desire for intercourse.
Now to this view of the functions (or lack thereof) of female erotic pleasure add the politics of sex, namely the view that the only or at least the main function of sex is reproduction. To this view add the politics of female sexuality, namely the tenet common in scientific and popular accounts well into the nineteenth century that women were more lustful than men and that their sexuality was a danger to men, and a path is cleared to an understanding of why clitoral structures get lost in the process. The logic becomes quite clear: (a) There is not good reason to pay attention to the clitoris, given that it allegedly plays no role in reproduction and that sex is to be studied (only) in order to understand reproduction. (b) Worse, there is good reason to not pay attention to the clitoris lest we stir up a hornet’s nest of stinging desire. From Pandora on, and well into the nineteenth century, women’s stinging desire and limb-gnawing passion had been branded the cause of the fall of mankind. What better reason to construct and maintain an epistemology of ignorance? What better way to disqualify and perhaps even control women’s sexual satisfaction?
Leaving Sigmund Freud aside for the moment, genitals came under scrutiny during the end of the nineteenth century as science constructed the category of the “invert,” namely, those who mixed with members of their own sex. Evolutionary theory linked the newly “uncovered” sexual identity of the homosexual to degeneracy, and widespread societal fears of the degeneration of the race (that is, the white race) led to broadened support for eugenics movements… Belief in the degeneration of the race led many to believe that so-called inverts were proliferating. Anxiety led to a desire to be able to track such undesirables and an equally strong desire to believe their perversity and devolution would be clearly marked on their bodies… Although through images to be kept only for the eyes of professionals, whose objectivity and dispassionate nature would protect them from corruption, science began to turn its gaze on the structures of the clitoris to seek out and control deviancy.”
From 1935 — 1941 sexual deviancy outside the accepted binary norms was conducted to ‘learn the physical marks‘ of such behavior in order to stop contamination of the white race by other races (see p. 211 here).
“The point here is that this epistemology is not about truth. …What is missing or only sketchily attended to in nonfeminist anatomies, at least when the focus is on the “normal” rather than the “deviant,” is the desire to map the geographies and functions of the clitoris and our other pleasurable bits.
…What I am arguing is that the history of our knowledge-ignorances of the clitoris — indeed, our lived experiences of its beginnings and ends — is part of an embodied discourse and history of bodies and pleasures.”
For the sake of length and my time-constraints, and probably yours too, I am leaving out the next four sections — The Issue of Pleasure, The Either/Or of Women’s Orgasms, Sisterhood Is Powerful, and Bodies and Pleasures — all four of which are well worth the read! If you are interested, here’s the complete version: Coming to Understand: Orgasm and the Epistemology of Ignorance.
Abortifacients and the Making of More Ignorance
It is as easy as sipping a cup of Pride of Barbados herbal tea and washing herself with the same herb/flower in a morning bath. Doing this shortly after intercourse, according to secretancient medicine in the Caribbean islands, prevents conception safely and comfortably. In fact, a woman could do this repeatedly two or three days after intercourse accomplishing more assured results. Why has this profound medical knowledge NOT been circulated around the world, especially in European civilizations? That is literally the million-dollar question.
Age of Discovery? 1500 — 1899 Advances in European maritime navigation and ship-building saw an unprecedented extent of exploration far beyond the continent’s seas between the 1500’s and 1900’s. Empires such as Spain, Portugal, France, and Great Britain were economic competitors and often bitter enemies when the riches of the New Worlds were discovered and calculated. The magnitude of historical influence on the world by just these four maritime empires cannot be overstated — three of the world’s most widely spoken languages today are Spanish, English, and Portuguese. During the Age of Discovery and Exploration humanity witnessed and experienced at the time what might be described as the biggest economic boom in recorded history, for European nobility particularly, followed by a new age of scientific breakthroughs. But not all breakthroughs found in the New Worlds made it back to European headlines. Why?
“…in the eighteenth century, both European science and societies were structured to cultivate certain types of knowledge over others. Funding priorities, global strategies, national policies, structures of scientific institutions, trade patterns, configuration of technologies all pushed investigation toward certain parts of nature and away from others.”
Centuries of European gender politics and mercantile profits were the undercurrents of this knowledge-ignorance. Following were two basic distortions in 18th century botany. Taxonomists like John Ray asked: What is the uniformity of plants and flora across various continents? It was postulated that Caribbean flowers and plants were brought to the islands by the Tainos of South America and afterwards by the Dutch, Spanish, and English. What botanists failed to observe was crates and sacks of produce awaiting transport in harbors inadvertently collected soil and seeds of other weedy species. Thus, trade routes/winds, their imports/exports, and human mixing/influence caused taxonomists to wrongly conclude that “uniformity” in tropical flora was global rather than diverse according to regions and climates.
Two centuries later famed English botanist, William T. Stearn, along with earlier recorded scientific excursions from several other renown 18th century European botanists corrected this faulty science. Where 17th century science was in favor of profitable trade and commerce, Stearn also noticed European taxonomists then were not as interested or invested in the notion of boring, all the same, un-lucrative uniformity. Highly novel filled the pockets of East and West Indies shipping and commerce.
The second distortion in 18th century botany which fueled cultural ignorance was technology and transcontinental movements. Not until the early 1800’s did European botany more accurately know and understand taxonomies of the New World’s resources as opposed to their own. Voyagers crossing the oceans preferred succulents and bulbs over heavy stones and minerals simply because they’d survive the journey back to Europe; they weighed much less and cost less to transport. These trade conditions didn’t change until ships became larger and faster. However, New World abortifacients like the Pride of Barbados or the peacock flower, was not embraced in Europe even though the knowledge of its use had been known for centuries in indigenous cultures and in select scientific disciplines.
Maria Sibylla Merian, a 17th century German-born Naturalist and botany-entymologist illustrator, documented that both Amerindians and African slave-women used the abortifacient flower almost exclusively because they did not want their child born into the slave-trade for life. There are several possibilities of the origin of the Pride of Barbados (peacock flower) and its use, but Dr. Schiebinger feels the more likely origin-knowledge is South America:
“The historical record of the peacock flower used as an abortive from Surinam up through the French Antilles to Jamaica suggests that the plant was known to the forebears of the Tainos, the Saladoid peoples, and followed their migration out of South America into the[Caribbean]islands. …While it is possible that displaced Africans taught the Tainos the use of the peacock flower, I find it more likely that the Tainos and Arawaks taught its uses to the newly arrived Africans.”
Despite the fact that so much Amerindian, African, and Caribbean resources and knowledge entered Europe during the Age of Discovery, their knowledge of abortifacients like the peacock flower did not. Again, why? What induced this European ignorance? Dr. Schiebinger explains pre-19th century social-moral legalities:
“Throughout the early modern period, the general consensus was that for legal purposes a woman was not pregnant — not truly with child — until “quickening” or “ensoulment” took place, usually considered to occur near the midpoint of gestation, late in the fourth or early in the fifth month of pregnancy (or according to Aristotle, forty days after conception for a male child and ninety days for a female child). …Even though abortion was legal in this period, it was never undertaken lightly: moral trepidation and physical danger argued against it.
Cultivating knowledge of West Indian abortifacients in Europe was discouraged by the fact that European colonial enterprises were largely male. The majority of Caribbean planters and slaves were men, as were colonial administrators, naturalists, and physicians. Colonial governors, such as Hendrick van Reede and Philippe de Lonvilliers, chevalier de Poincy (for whom the Poinciana pulcherrima was named), were most interested in medicines to protect traders, planters, and trading company troops, among whom few women were found.
Developing abortifacients or any drugs used predominantly to control fertility also worked directly against the interests of mercantilist states. Mercantilist governments sought to augment the wealth of nations by PRODUCING growing and healthy populations.”
There is simply no other more pleasant way of putting it. Women, in the Age of Discovery, were breeders, meant to bolster the wealth and resources of male nations. For European states and their foreign colonies, abundant population — both slave and citizen — was to increase production of crops and goods. Domestically large populations filled the armies and navies. It generated workers who would pay substantial taxes and rents. In the empire’s colonies it grew negroes that would push and pad the empire’s wealth. The moral issues surrounding abortifacients were just as centered around a company’s and nation’s wealth-accumulation as it was (or less so) seen in God’s eyes and prosperity for “true believers.”
And so the simple, safe, and comfortable remedy for a possible (objectionable? shameful?) conception — drinking an herbal tea of peacock flower and bathing in a warm “peacock floral” bath — went disinterested and/or suppressed throughout an apparently ‘advanced’ European people. How much has changed today in our knowledge-ignorance of safe, simple, ancient and Renaissance abortifacients?
For further information about women’s bodies and pleasure: OMGYes.com — “See What Science Says About Women’s Pleasure”
∞ ∞ ∞ § ∞ ∞ ∞
In Part III of Games of Unknowledging, I want to cover the art of Fabricating Facts, the Revelations of Indigenous Fossils and their knowledge-ignorance, as well as gaining a better understanding of the benefits and advantages of thorough Historical-Interdisciplinary Hindsight. I hope you’ll join me there with your thoughts and comments.
Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always
Surprise! I am not a fan of horse-blinders, headless ostriches, or one-tree forests. I am not a fan of shallow, baseless rhetoric or opinion unless it is cleverly woven with satire and parody. Nor am I a fan of closed systems and strong-armed boxing in. Are you asking “What on Earth is he going on about?” Fair question.
What 2017 will become for Americans, and hopefully to a minimal extent the world, will be or has been partly determined by 2015-16, the state-of-the-Union and its unionists today, and what will result in 2018 and 2019 based on the past and present. This is the final post from the previous: 2016: Cries for Mutiny.
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The Past Two Years
2015 and 2016 in America saw many economic, political, social, and scientific headlines, many good as there were bad. Following are some of the biggest and in my opinion most impactful relative to the well-being of all U.S. citizens and citizens to be.
Racism, lethal violence, and gun-control, and so by default our nation’s outrageous incarceration rate, seems to never go away. The mass shootings at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC and the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL, a popular LGBT club, were two of the deadliest shootings in recent history. The Charleston Church shooting was reportedly motivated by a 21-year old white supremacist charged with 33 counts including murder, firearms charges, and federal hate-crime charges. The murderer’s beliefs prompted continued debate over the state’s long history of flying the 19th century Confederate Battle Flag atop the state capitol building. This shooting and other similar shootings in the U.S. including the Pulse nightclub—and Roseburg, Lafayette, Chattanooga, Planned Parenthood, San Bernardino—ignited again the still never-ending controversy of racism and gun-control.
The phrase Black Lives Matter became a common trending 2015 hashtag on social media following events such as the death of 25-year old Freddie Gray while in custody. Increased police violence and killing continued throughout 2016, primarily toward or effecting African-Americans, shockingly suggesting that the end of the American Civil War in 1865, the ratification of the 13th Amendment also in 1865, then decades later historical victories by the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s and 70’s never happened! It seriously begs the question whether basic human rights in America have really taken firm roots after 151 years!
On a high note, in 2015 June 26th, the White House vowed its support for the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in favor of marriage equality for same-sex couples. President Obama remarked:
“In my second inaugural address, I said that if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. It is gratifying to see that principle enshrined into law by this decision.”
But American history has shown that simple moral, ethical equality for all is still far from established, practiced, and protected within our national borders, e.g. Texas Rep. Andrew Murr in my previous post. And America is not always so embracing when it comes to foreigners and foreign affairs, despite what Lady Liberty is supposed to symbolize to the world.
The European refugee crisis from war-torn nations like Syria have been an embarrassing blemish across Lady Liberty and all Americans. Tens of thousands of people fleeing from the Middle East and Africa learned harshly just how paranoid and apathetic the United States has become. Germany, Sweden, and the U.K. on the other hand opened up their arms wide taking in far more than President Obama’s plan to allow 10,000. Other foreign aid into those warring nations reached all-time highs and lows for the international community despite U.S. peace and refusal talks. Yet, these refugee figures come out of European and American sources — the numbers are anywhere between 1.1 to 4.4 million refugees in African nations, ironically where some of the poorest nations in the world are located. Hmmmm.
The U.S. economy made several headlines as well, no surprise given the upcoming Presidential primaries and election in 2016. The federal deficit indeed shrunk over 2015. The final figures came in at $439 billion, about $45 billion less than in 2014. Employment rose, unemployment fell, and for the first time in the past 7-years, 2015’s real hourly pay climbed faster than 2%. Good news, yes. However, America’s widening zip code inequality continued to rise as poverty and a lack of upward mobility became not just social and economic problems, they became bigger geographical ones too. American living standards only saw limited gains creating a false illusion of recovery. This was reflected by a contraction of aggregate supply rather than a strong expansion of demand, all according to the Brookings Institute. Therefore, now is an easy segway into America’s federal politics and “Election 2016″… a campaign year that would go down in history as infamous, to put it mildly.
In an April 2015 two-minute video, Democrat Hillary Clinton announced her anticipated second run for president. With Democratic candidates Sanders and Clinton set, the race for the Republican nomination became a wild free-for-all. Another Bush from Florida entered the race, Jeb Bush, along with no less than 15 others, including the TV-reality star and business mogul Donald Trump. From that point on, the fiery “You’re Fired!” TV personality turned the campaigns into polarizing, even comical, reality shows. Soon after, as if to get in line for the next blockbuster show, rapper Kanye West proclaimed he would run in the 2020 presidential election. Why not! Come one, come all. No experience necessary.
In November 2016, what can only be described as a stunning outcome, Trump won not the popular vote, but the Electoral College vote to become the 45th President of the United States. Yes, the rest of the world was shocked, not shocked, and Vladimir Putin and Russia loved it.
In late 2016 the Brookings Institute spoke about Trump’s economic team forecasting doubled long-term GDP as “unrealistic.”
“Labor force growth is slowing to a crawl. The population is aging, the dramatic advance of women into the labor market is waning, and male participation has been declining for decades. We will be lucky if the labor force grows by 0.5 percent a year. That means labor productivity growth would have to grow by 3 percent a year. Over the past decade, it grew by just over 1 percent. So the Trump administration seems to be assuming that they can more than double productivity growth. So, is a near-doubling of the GDP growth rate realistic? No. But even if it were, it would be less important than ensuring that whatever growth we have is more equally distributed. But let’s assume we can bump up the growth rate. Even then, unless something is done to ensure that growth is more broadly distributed, the average American is unlikely to benefit very much. This lesson was reinforced recently by the release of new data showing that, on average, if you were born in 1940, you had a 90 percent chance of being better off than your parents, but the odds fell to 50 percent if you were born in the 1980s. Both lower growth and rising inequality contributed to this depressing story for today’s younger generations. In addition, the study—by Raj Chetty and colleagues—found that more equally distributing growth would be more effective at improving the average person’s life chances than simply restoring GDP growth to its golden years’ rate. In fact, in today’s lopsided economy, it would take a growth rate of more than 6 percent to revive the income trajectories experienced by middle class children in 1940.”
But don’t fret too much America. There are some very bright spots from 2015-16!
A shattered chromosome cured a woman of her immune disease then reassembled. This is known as chromothripsis, possibly paving the way for therapies against a variety of human diseases. 2015 saw the dawn of gene editing, the rise of immunotherapy and the first hints of a drug to slow the pace of Alzheimer’s disease. NASA’s Kepler telescope found 1,284 new planets of which nine could plausibly support human life. About 800-million years ago a slight genetic mutation lead to multicellular life on Earth. An ancient molecule known as GK-PID was discovered to be the reason single-celled organisms on Earth started evolving into multicellular organisms we have today. In mathematics a new prime number was discovered, further expanding and enhancing encryption programming: the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search. Then perhaps one of the biggest headline for medical science in 2016 was made by the Stanford University School of Medicine! Stem cells injected into stroke patients re-enabled patients to walk again.
Finally and on the faith vs. science debate, cavefish were found that could walk up walls. This showed similarities to four-limbed vertebrates. The New Jersey Institute of Technology discovered a Taiwanese Cavefish that is capable of walking up walls with the same anatomical movement as any present-day amphibian or reptile. And in the state of Utah, the Black Dragon Canyon rock-art debate was finally solved! Due to pterosaur fossils being found in the area, young-Earth creationists — who believe our planet to be only 6,000 to 10,000 years old — have relentlessly cited the rock-painting as proof that humans and the winged reptiles had walked the region together. Archaeological chemist Dr. Marvin Rowe using “a photographic enhancement program known as DStretch and a technique called x-ray fluorescence,” completely debunked the creationist’s claim of the art.
There were many, many more major breakthroughs in medicine, history, and science for 2015-16 that simply could not all be listed here. Apologies.
The reviews are mixed about 2017. No surprise, right? It’s only January.
However, from a U.S. economic standpoint, the fiscal outlook for America’s “new POTUS” plans are not promising, says the Brookings Institute, and “it is likely to get worse soon.“
“The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates that Trump’s tax and spending proposals – the latter including replacing the Affordable Care Act, modifying Medicaid, boosting military spending, and enacting savings in non-defense programs – imply that the debt will rise to 105 percent of GDP by 2026. The CRFB report leaves out any estimate of increased infrastructure spending, which Trump has said he would like to increase by roughly $1 trillion over a decade. Including that would add further to the debt figures.”
From a political standpoint, never before has the spirit of true, pure equality for ALL Americans been so threatened (e.g. 2016: Cries for Mutiny), arguably weakened the last 2-3 decades. Racism and hate-crimes littered our nation’s news media and if 2015-16 is any barometer, it isn’t going away anytime soon in 2017. For here and now and the sake of time, I am going to focus on sex-gender identities only.
Notwithstanding the obvious growing social trend of sex-gender equality across many states, the political-Conservative representation and processes, for various reasons, progressed at snail-paces. It took the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court, after four pivotal landmark decisions—Lawrence v. Texas (2003), United States v. Windsor (2013), Hollingsworth v. Perry (2013), and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015)—to make same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states. Can you say it took not an act of Congress, but the gavel of the Supreme Court to finally follow its majority of people!?
From the social and scientific standpoints then, the future in America has wider glimmers of hope. Since 1991 the work of doctors and scientists — like Dr. Simon LeVay and medical/university colleagues across Massachusetts and New York with their supporting universities and clinics through 2001 — has led to the progression and evolution of tangible better understandings of sex-gender dynamics. For example, in 2006 the Council for Responsible Genetics reported:
“We are sexual beings, yet this does not mean that we are born homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual. Our sexual expression can change over time, towards different people, through different experiences. A lack of understanding about this type of human variability often leads to a perspective that our genes define who we are.
…Yet a narrow focus on the variability of sexual expression threatens to cloud the issue altogether. Without giving proper attention to the mutability of human sexual expression, questions regarding its origins and character cannot be answered. Without giving proper attention to the mutability of human sexual expression, questions regarding its origins and character cannot be answered.”
“For men, new research suggests that clues to sexual orientation may lie not just in the genes, but in the spaces between the DNA, where molecular marks instruct genes when to turn on and off and how strongly to express themselves.”
In individuals, said[UCLA molecular biologist Tuck C.]Ngun, the presence of these distinct molecular marks can predict homosexuality with an accuracy of close to 70%.
Researchers working in the young science of epigenetics acknowledge they are unsure just how an individual’s epigenome is formed. But they increasingly suspect it is forged, in part, by the stresses and demands of external influences. A set of chemical marks that lies between the genes, the epigenome changes the function of genetic material, turning the human body’s roughly 20,000 protein-coding genes on or off in response to the needs of the moment.
“Our best guess is that there are genes” that affect a man’s sexual orientation “because that’s what twin studies suggest,” said Northwestern University psychologist J. Michael Bailey, who has explored a range of physiological markers that point to homosexuality’s origins in the womb. But the existence of identical twin pairs in which only one is homosexual “conclusively suggest that genes don’t explain everything,” Bailey added.”
—Scientists find DNA differences between gay men and their straight twin brothers, by Melissa Healy – LA Times, October 2015
Stepping back from any one tree and examining the genetic or epigenetic forest strongly suggests that ancient and long-standing social-theological traditions of strictly an unbending binary paradigm in post-modern Europe and modern America are fast fading into fallacy. For the future growth of higher human virtues and education, this is great news!
This very month one of the most iconic American magazines, National Geographic, released their double-issues on the gender revolution. Since I can remember over the last 25+ years, this bold highly controversial step by a world-renown organization is long overdue in the U.S.! It paints the reality of the changing social stigma of sex-gender identity bringing it to our public squares to define the correct precise terms so misunderstood, and looks closely at the cultural, political, social, and most importantly the biological aspects! These are must copies for your personal library.
Topics the magazines cover include Helping Families Talk About Gender, Girls, Boys, and Gendered Toys, the power and influence of our society’s binaryColor Code on American children, a deeper look into children’s animated films of popular characters: Who’s the Fairest?, a detailed graph of Where In the World Are Women and Men Most-and Least-Equal, candid first-hand reports from 9-year olds around the globe of How (in their countries) Gender Affects Their Lives, Rethinking Gender: Can Science Help Us Navigate?, and then the lengthy article, Making A Man: How Does A 21st-century Boy Reach Manhood? that I found astonishing. And those articles and graphs are merely the first-half of the first magazine!
“Enveloped by the men of his family and Hasidic faith, Levi Tiechtel celebrates his 13th birthday at his bar mitzvah in Queens, New York. For millenia, Jews have been performing this ritual, which commemorates the[supposed]age when a male becomes accountable for his own actions and sins.”
—Making A Man: How Does A 21st-century Boy Reach Manhood?, January 2017 National Geographic, pp 86-87.
From 800 BCE Sparta to 1930 Italy and United States, “cultures have devised[not genetics or epigenetics necessarily]myriad practices and rituals to make boys into men. The methods — often secret and sacred — vary widely and continually evolve, says cultural anthropologist Gilbert Herdt. But they also share some universal themes that broadly reflect a community’s values and the roles its men are expected to play.” At such a young malleable age, in several cultures around the world, America included, it makes the decision to conform or not conform daunting or near impossible until perhaps an older age of increased independence and exposure to the world’s endless variety.
The Possible-Probable Forecast
Based on what I’ve written in this post and previous posts, my life experiences as an 8th-generation Texan as well as American, my 28-year futebol-soccer career across 4-of-the-6 inhabitable continents exposed and engrossed to a multitude of native cultures, the copiousness and curse of the internet, and my unconventional journey from young agnostic, to evangelical-fundamental Reformed theology with church leadership and practice, back toward a Freethinking Humanist today… and now an evolving, learning, and hopefully teaching social-sciences from basic chemistry to Quantum Physics, I would say the next 2-6 years in the United States looks promising through several lenses on the social and scientific fronts, but ominous on the economic and political battlefields. Why?
After 241-years as a nation and about 182 for Texas, we have nurtured the freedom to continually push the envelope of social refinement and scientific exploration, granted in pockets of the country, while also nurturing the fear of change and the consumer rewards of self-reliance and exclusion. When we examine the entire American forest over the lifetime of our nation, we stand at a pivotal ridge on our future’s horizon. Either we embrace a bigger global community, reverse the return or nuisance of old uncivilized ideologies which have crept or will creep back in, and instead keep pushing the scientific thresholds… else we risk increased fragmentation, polarization, and socioeconomic collapse in a few more generations, if not sooner.
I hope my seat behind this windshield and the view through my/our rearview mirror is different or temporarily malfunctioning! (half laughing, half nervous)
Tell me your thoughts and suggestions below. Whether you are American or not, I’d like to read them.
Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always
It is astonishing as well as alarming! Doha, Qatar, one of many “Emerald Cities” in the Persian Gulf springing up from hot sand into vast riches of oil and gas then spectacular skyscrapers is since the early 2000’s, mostly empty. That’s right, 90% empty! And the reasons are telling!
But before examining the reasons, let’s first review where we left off in El Dorado — Part I… since it has been almost two months and nine other posts since I published it.
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American workers between the age of 25-54 work an average 63 hours per week, 7 days a week, equating to almost 9-hours per day. Of all Western nations this work-rate is the highest among industrialized countries. This obsession to work looks like this: their 7-day work week earns them an average wage of $47,000 per year, or $14.35/hour and this wage often does not come with medical-health benefits from the employer — most American low-wage jobs don’t. Therefore, factor in that deduction from $14.35/hour and you only begin to see the real picture for much of the American workforce.
At the other end of the spectrum you have attorneys at-law, the highest wage-earners, making between $105,000 to $192,000 per year (in the 48 conjoined states) according to the American Bar Association 2011. This job-sector also has the nation’s highest rates of depression and suicide, along with American teachers, counselors, and executive assistants, respectively. What is more bewildering is that universities across the United States “report steady or increased enrollment into their law schools and medical schools, and not so surprising decreased enrollment into their schools of education and counseling.” The steady or increasing numbers to law schools and the declining numbers into teaching or counseling classrooms are directly related to their average salaries.
Fortunately, this subtle American tragic disunion has an upside… which I will get to momentarily.
Visions of World Grandeur
Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani – Emir of Qatar
Accounting history has shown over the last two decades that to host a FIFA World Cup is extremely stimulating for a country’s economy, employment, its leadership, and world image. The spectacle of the four-week tournament includes 32 different nations and their raving fans, unimaginable TV exposure and revenues, exceptionally high tourism revenue, fan sites and events at each game just outside of stadiums, all-encompassing millions upon billions of dollars. Glitz, glamour, and metaphorical-gold abound! Not surprising, the bidding war for the 2022 World Cup was fierce between the U.S., Japan, and Qatar, with Qatar coming out as the highly controversial winner. As mentioned, Doha, the capital of Qatar, will host several of the games. The Qatari ruling family (Emirs, Faisals or Kings), the house of Al-Thani, began in 2010-11 implementing very bold construction plans for a “New Qatar” as a whole, but in particular the FIFA game-venues throughout the eastern portion of the country as the chance to awe not only the sports world, but the entire modern world after the games. Qatar shipped in thousands of foreign workers and erected several “Emerald Cities” the world would envy!
Why then, as of October 2014, is the capital Doha 90% empty?
BQDoha.com (Business Qatar) explains three primary causes and symptoms to Doha’s emptiness. One — overcrowded cramped housing. The average person, mostly foreign construction workers, live with other families or individuals in “villas” — many semi-dilapidated buildings — partitioned into family-sections in order that landlords turnover a bigger profit. Two — a wait-and-watch holdout policy by landlords for the foreign corporate residents. Landlords can better gouge big corporations for higher rent and get the rent in one lump sum for a 3-year contract on average. And Three — a saturation of aggressive street peddlers disguised as “real estate brokers” but paid by landlords discreetly. Rents quoted by these illegal peddlers are high to pad their finder’s fee and compensation. From these three causes follow symptoms of a city and nation struggling with traditions, expatriates, and modernism heavily pushed by the Emir and extremely wealthy faisal families-business élite. A quick read of The New York Times Middle East beat-writer Anthony Shadid’s November 2011 article, shows how the capital city, its nation and upper-elite, versus its common people are sharply contrasted behind the imposing Emerald City façade. Visions of world notoriety and wealth come only from a tiny privileged percentage of Qataris.
The United States has its fair share of Emerald Cities too: Detroit, Michigan and Cleveland, Ohio are two most notable emptying facades out of several.
Getting Behind the Glittering Veil
In Part I of El Dorado I touched on the highly clever, complex marketing schemes (Ponzi Schemes?) America’s upper 10% and corporate executives promote to consumers — extensive details of the schemes were found in five previous posts. But rather than hunting and gutting the schemers, I want to delve into the uneducated gullible consumer’s mind; why do they/we swallow El Dorado hook, line, and sinker? Why does one incessantly chase Emerald City citizenship with big eyes and panting breath? Probably five reasons:
Respect of Peers
Time and one’s concept of it
What do you value in life? What activities do you enjoy most? If you are unable to satisfy your value-systems, what goals or dreams do you have in order to work for and satisfy your values? Typically, we all value the respect of someone: our parents, spouse or intimate partner, coach or boss, a fan-base or maybe the approvals and recommendations of institutions or associations, like universities or writers guild. Everyone seeks some degree of respect from others. What skills or talents have you been taught? Are those skills considered excellent? Average? Evaluated by whom? Certainly everyone cannot be self-proclaimed tycoons, right? Therefore, respect and skills are irrevocably linked.
Perhaps the most significant reason one seeks El Dorado-Emerald City citizenship is their concept of time. In Western industrialized nations, the average lifespan is 78-years; for women 81-82 years. Depending on where you are born and to what parents may dictate how much time you have to obtain the coveted citizenship, march through the golden gates, and into worldly bliss. Then again, many believe existence does not end at 78 or 82 years. For them it might be eternal and as such feel much less pressure to pass through those gates — atheists and deists may not bother with citizenship-anxiety at all. Eat, drink, and be very merry might be all that matters to them — a lifestyle this Bohemian doesn’t scuff off but happily joins on several occasions!
These five above appetites that hungry consumers have are well-known and pandered to by the Kings and Queens of El Dorado and Emerald City. Their accompanying marketing departments probably know even better. Fortune 100 companies pay millions, maybe billions, to the élite Top marketing firms or internal departments to CREATE insatiable consumer appetites! For a population that doesn’t have easy access to alternative lifestyles’ skills or services (such as, living off-the-grid), or the matching business-marketing masters degrees or PhD’s, the consumer’s future is an increasing metaphorical obesity epidemic. The gourmet chefs of this buyer buffet — the Fortune 100 or 500 businesses and executives — won’t ever stop crowding your table and plates with “masterpieces” unless you break the trance and walk away by your own will-power!
The New Tiny Living Tiny House Movement
Click to enlarge – image courtesy of TheTinyLife.com
The Wall Street Crisis of 2007-08 and to an extent America’s metaphorical appetite for obesity, jump-started the Tiny Living Tiny House Nation and Movement as an alternative to high-debt living and mortgages which greatly limit owner’s freedoms and R&R in a hectic ultra-competitive free-market economy. From 1978 to 2007 the average size of new single-family American home grew from 1,780 sq. feet to almost 2,500 sq. feet. With that growth followed all accessory businesses such as landscaping and home-improvement. By the time President Ronald Reagan finished his last term in 1989 and put into law his Tax Reform Act of 1986, the make-it-bigger home market fly-wheel was at full-speed-ahead until it hit the granite wall in 2007.
Today, on top of the purchase-price, down payment, principle paid, interest after-tax, taxes and home insurance, maintenance, and major repairs and/or improvements, the final amount out-of-pocket for a typical single-family home reaches over $1-millionfor a 30-year term. If you are the 76% – 90% portion of the typical American family earning between $35k – $50k annually, where is the fiscal wisdom in living so far out of your means?
The fantastic people at TheTinyLife.com offer home-buyers interested in more freedom, more time, more environmentally conscious, more fiscally responsible, just more modesty and simplicity for hectic lives by liberating themselves from America’s bigger-is-betterGAUDINESS! It’s just smarter.
For most Americans 1/3 to 1/2 of their income is dedicated to the roof over their heads; This translates to 15 years of working over your life time just to pay for it and because of it 76% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. — TheTinyLife.com
Please stop by their website to learn the brilliance in unburdening yourself from the modern home-building, home-improvement marketing schemes that imprison and overload many nose-diving Americans. Wise up!
Labor of Survival, Status, or of Love?
It is perhaps the most introspective questions we ask ourselves: Am I working to survive? Am I working to gain status? Am I not “working” because I love my job? In which group do you fall? In which one would you rather be?
Finding our bearings through these questions and possibly changing our heading in today’s labor and social environment can seem daunting. Marketing impulse-triggering wizards with million-dollar Ivy League business degrees wickedly cleverly pull at our heart-strings. But the consequences of not checking your bearings and heading could prove to be much worse on one’s emotional, spiritual, and physical health. It would be wise to ask yourself at least twice a year, What am I laboring for and will it be worth it come retirement? For many Americans “retirement in luxury” is a distant fantasy due to a lifetime of survival mode and seemingly never-ending self-sacrifice. If this is the case, maybe a second and third question should be asked… Where is the majority of my paycheck(s) going? Are those credits bearing valuable fruit or evaporating, or padding a total stranger’s pocketbook?
Laboring for status is perhaps the greatest American trickster scheme. It can at first be mistaken for love. There’s no better example of this than in the top four U.S. sports markets. Coaches, General Managers, Athletic Directors, and finally the players (with the exception of NCAA collegiate athletes) face the very real possibility that their employment or their role will be terminated or replaced by another every year, sometimes less than a year! In the NFL (National Football League), the #1 most popular sport in America, a head coach lasts an average of 38-months. NFL General Managers last a bit longer at 44-months. In the MLB (Major League Baseball), the #2 sport in America, a Manager/Coach lasts about 24-months. And unless players in both the NFL or MLB are tagged franchise-players, they stay only 24-months on average with one team. Athletic Directors with NCAA Division I universities enjoy more stability and longevity at 7.5 years on campus, but over the last decade this average has steadily dropped due to collegiate sports (and revenues) becoming more widely competitive. There has also been increased mobility or transfers by NCAA football and baseball players for improved exposure to NFL and MLB scouts, especially in baseball given its now global appeal. In the NBA (National Basketball Association), the #4 most popular sport (along with auto-racing), staff and player positions and vacancies have become a near non-stop marry-go-round with replacements, no check that, scapegoats… with an average stay of only 9-months; the NBA season is only 6-months long.
What does all this mean? In the American sports culture it means one thing: winning championships or very least, consistent playoff births. Status. Nothing else matters; truly a What-have-you-done-for-me-lately intolerance. Just how much does the American sports world permeate American occupational and economic culture? Answer: Factor in all games and events, merchandise, and other incidental sports activities, and the dollar figure goes easily into the upper billions! Yes, 60.9% of American sports fans, i.e. the men, fantasize and live vicariously through their favorite pro and collegiate athletes and spend royally to feel and look like them.
According to Forbes.com and NSGA.org (National Sporting Goods Association), every year Americans spend around $43-billion on retail sporting goods such as gear and equipment, logo’d-apparel of their team(s), not counting game or season tickets. Sports gambling, e.g. fantasy leagues, rake in $20-billion from American sports fans in a $400-billion dollar sports gambling industry. Parents of little American athletes spend $300-million a year for various league registrations, uniform fees, etc, then the figure leaps to $900-million per year for goods, incidentals, and travel for their athletic kids. Let’s not forget how much companies spend on TV advertising, and fans on Pay-per-View events; that figure is in excess of $10-billion per year.
Those dollar figures beg many serious questions, not the least of which is why do American taxpayers bitch and whine about taxes and tax-levels, the national deficit, poorly run government programs, and struggling public infrastructure when clearly the private sector, i.e. businesses and individuals, spend over $474-billion dollars PER YEAR on sporting entertainment alone? Should I remind us of what those same entities spend on real estate, homes, home-improvement, home accessories, and automobiles to park in the two-car garages? No? Then at least remember $474+ billion dollars annually just on entertainment.
A laboring of love is generally accepted, or should be, as the way to live. Though by the time I reached my 30’s or 40’s, with a marriage or two, and then children — you know, after all the trials and tribulations getting through my teens and twenties — the light-bulb didn’t come on…I was halfway finished with my life! Time to get serious and ask myself those hard questions. I won’t bog you readers down with another convincing argument (wink) of why a life of experience, experience with others, with the ones you care for deeply and go through thick-n-thin with to come out singing and dancing… is the way to go. No, I hope all of you can grasp and understand what Albert Einstein profoundly distinguished:
“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” — Albert Einstein
For those who might need a hint, Dr. Albert distinguished two opposite concepts in just those twelve simple words. The first-hand experience to love and be loved is the best labor in life, not status or success. I would add to Einstein’s point that modesty and moderation will limit, even save one from the dangers and risks of metaphorical and yes, literal obesity.
Hidden city and legend of El Dorado
These are very difficult concepts to execute for many Americans because we are surrounded and bombarded by remade patriotic 19th and 20th century cheers of Seek in earnest El Dorado and you will find and sit on its throne. But the more feasible reality involves your immediate and intermediate circles of influence and experience. Beyond those lines, beyond those outlands are the experiences and lives meant for others, not just you. Everyone has a “sandbox” to build and play inside, but the walls enclosing your sandbox should never be inflexible nor perpetually expanding or worse, imperializing. Am I saying humanity as a whole should not collaborate for an improved more healthy sustainable self and planet? Not in the least, no. However, if every single human is supposed to build their own El Dorado, then it seems to me we will all manifest Aristotle’s fabled King Midas of Phyrgia turning everything, including ourselves, into unsustainable useless gold with 7.4 billion King Midas’s running around atop 7.4 billion useless thrones ruling an unsustainable golden rock-planet of 7.4 billion useless Phyrgia kingdoms! One fashion color and one fashion color only! One texture and one texture only! One food group and one food group only! Eeeeek…
Is that the life on El Planedo you want to live?
Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always
Gaily bedight, A gallant knight, In sunshine and in shadow, Had journeyed long, Singing a song, In search of Eldorado.
But he grew old— This knight so bold— And o’er his heart a shadow— Fell as he found No spot of ground That looked like Eldorado.
And, as his strength Failed him at length, He met a pilgrim shadow— ‘Shadow,’ said he, ‘Where can it be— This land of Eldorado?’
‘Over the Mountains Of the Moon, Down the Valley of the Shadow, Ride, boldly ride,’ The shade replied,— ‘If you seek for Eldorado!’
— Eldorado, by Edgar Allan Poe
My wonderful daughter is soon graduating from four years of university. I could not be more proud. I reflect back to the summer of her upcoming freshman year and the many questions and discussions we had about what major to pursue and study. It is perhaps one of many far-reaching decisions facing all undergraduates. For some, it is a time of the highest anxiety they must address in their budding lives. I know, I’ve been there. Many of us have been there, right?
In a modern economy and job-market that has increasingly become highly specialized the last three decades, a new graduate likely wants to make a decent high wage to at least have the ability to pay-down college debts. While examining today’s competitive labor market, it isn’t much of a stretch or mystery to conclude that once your vocation has been decided, the choice could very well set in concrete the next 10-20 years of your working life, years that cannot be refunded! Oh and by the way, the job-market is usually dictated by what finicky consumers want and how they spend their incomes. Mix into that career-path-anxiety healthy doses of follow-your-heart advice, which often does not translate to 6-digit paychecks, and a college graduate begins perspiring and shaking. Oh and by the way, since 1995 the U.S. median income for four-year college graduates has remained pretty constant at about $47k per year according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Unless a new graduate with 3 or 4-years of tuition-debt lands a minimum annual income of around $70k to $80k quickly, they will not be able to keep up with inflation, cost-of-living with rent or a mortgage, likely loan interest, let alone raising toddlers, they will NOT be able to get ahead on $47k per year. If they are financially frugal and wise, they must put those dreams on hold until that high-wage career is landed, if it is landed. Enter more stress.
A career-path is indeed a huge ordeal and can possibly make or break a person. It is not to be taken lightly. But what are the driving forces behind the decision? What sort of life will those driving forces actually create? (line break)
* * * * * * * * * *
We now live in a part of the world, the Western Hemisphere, where wide choices of labor are unparalleled in the history of civilizations. At first glance, one would think this is a good thing. On many levels the advancements in medicine or technology, to name two, are indeed far and beyond other progressive ages of the past. They are two of many explanations for the planet having close to 7.3 billion humans to date; a number close to the tipping-point of what Earth can sustain. Why?
Two major factors have been the social evolutions of increased democracy and wide-spread education. These two alone have contributed greatly to the end of feudalism and eventually ushered in the Industrial Revolution leading workers out of the fields and into mass urbanization. Families went from hard subsistent living to higher social mobility and liberation in the span of one century! But with so much labor and social change come newer problems; some with hints and roots of old problems.
In the West where much of these advancements have taken place, workers are the unhappiest since the end of World War II. In two of the continents of labor-liberation, over two-thirds of Europeans — primarily in central and southern Europe — are dissatisfied with their jobs according to OPP Unlocking Potential in Oxford, U.K. In America 52.3% are unhappy — all of those workers being in the middle and lower incomes of the nation — and the happiness-scale has been falling since 2011 according to the New York-based non-profit research group The Conference Board.
Modern Kings and Queens
The foundation of the Industrial Revolution was laid by ideals and theories published in the late 1700’s. Economists David Hume and Adam Smith, along with botanist Henri-Louis Duhamel du Monceau, combined to create the earliest stages of manufacturing by the Division of Labour. Essentially this philosophy means turning a product or service from start to finish by one person/family, instead into many phases done by multitudes — highly specialized worker ants/bees, if you will — for the sake of Queen and country…and job-security. Today, those Queens, Kings, and countries are business corporations.
Balsa Muisca (Muisca raft) figure, Bogotá, Columbia; the symbol & origin of the El Dorado legend
Since the 1950’s and certainly after the Great Recession of 2008, as the previous stats indicated, Hume’s, Smith’s, and Monceau’s economic philosophy no longer satisfies the common-worker in the West. Very soon the same will be said, if not already, in the Middle and Far East. Indeed, the basic material needs of modern Western civilizations have been met post-WW2, or at least made more easily available to the less-privileged. However, with more freedom, more liberties, more competition, comes more and more shrewd marketing schemes and modern funding into Special Interest groups pressurizing all levels of legislation by those who stand to lose much more. In million and billion-dollar economics, ethical integrity by the major players becomes a risk they cannot or will not take and the winds of change apply only to an upward swerve of their bottom-line.
Yes, incomes and wages in Europe and North America over the last two centuries have been rising. They have reached their highest points in history for more than just the nobility and the wealthy few. Yet, it stops there. Along with clever complex psychological marketing, the average life-satisfaction surveys, or well-being stats, are surprisingly still flat; especially the last thirty-years! What has happened?
“I came to get gold, not to till the soil like a peasant.” — Hernán Cortés
In 1504 the collapse of the Aztec Empire of central Mexico marked the beginning of Imperial Spain’s Golden Age, literally. Cortés and his Conquistadors made off with wagon-loads of gold and silver catapulting he and his men — who back home had little to lose — into a new socio-economic class otherwise unobtainable. With that new status came not only heightened respect and popularity, but their native Empire’s greatest glory and colonial land expansion. What followed in the 1600’s changed the world forever: the Age of Exploration. For the peasants and servants of 17th century Europe, the hope of an entirely new life with riches either in land or wealth, or both, was too great to pass up. They came to The New World by the never-ending boat-loads.
Many immigrants were unaware of the great risks blinded by the glitter of the legendary stories. Disease, hunger, and angry natives protecting their homelands put the new settlers in harms way and the expeditions literally as do-or-die endeavors. In the modern era, the similar reckless obsession, perhaps disguised as the dream, is the amount of time American workers spend on the job. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports in 2013 that the average U.S. employee between age 25 and 54 works almost 9-hours a day, 7-days a week, for a total work-week of 63 hours; the most out of all industrialized nations.
The highest-earning occupation in the U.S., attorneys-at-law, have the highest rate of depression and suicide as reported by magazine Psychology Today and a 1990 John Hopkins University study of 100 occupations. Perhaps shocking or not so shocking, lawyers are followed next by teachers and counselors, then secretaries according to the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine 1990. Yet, still today universities across the U.S. report steady or increased enrollment into their law schools and medical schools, and not so surprising decreased enrollment into their schools of education (NTP 2013 Title II Reports) and counseling (BLS 2014 Occupational Employment). Care to guess why?
The dream of El Dorado has been the most commonly propogated and sought-after-dream sold to the masses by the Queens and Kings of the world. My 4-part blog-series Oversimplification 2012, as well as The Land of Opportunity? post, both address this modern El Dorado scheme in-depth. Fortunately, a new growing trend for more purpose in life beyond simply wealth and success is emerging. In my next post, El Dorado – Part II, I will explore further how and why the trend is growing, and warn against the biggest counterfeits of “a better El Dorado life.“
Have you discovered an empty “El Dorado” recently? How did you uncover the mythical town?
Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always