2017: Our Past, Present, & Forecast

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.

blm-march

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.

refugees-in-sloveniaThe 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!

shattered-chromosomeA 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.

cryptotora_thamicolaFinally 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 Present

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.

sex-gender-equality_graphic

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.”
Brief on Sexual Orientation and Genetic Determinism, May 2006, citation Jan. 5, 2017 at http://www.councilforresponsiblegenetics.org/ViewPage.aspx?pageId=66

Then by 2015 more results were in…

“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!

ngm_gendersThis 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! 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 binary Color 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

us-map-state-flagsBased 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.

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Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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The Land of Opportunity?

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As some of you are aware, I teach 4th through 12th grade Special-Ed science, social studies, and secondary career development at a charter school.  Close to two-thirds of our students are either wards-of-the-state and/or special-needs.  Due in part to the nation-wide recession and severe federal-state education cuts and the increasing gap of social-economic inequality in America (families in poverty vs. families with great wealth), my workload and hours are increasing between 25-30% for the 2012-2013 school year.  However, my meek salary and annual increase has been frozen – while our cost-of-living continues to run free like a gorilla in a banana farm.  Even more astonishing, the social expenditures to address and manage our nation’s growing impoverished families – the exact families my students come from – are dropping through the basement in alarming amounts.

I am not blowing a horn that many haven’t already heard:  America is in a very serious economic and social crisis!  But what I would like to convey is a re-evaluation of a socio-economic system that like the Roman Empire, is heading toward collapse.

Here is a crash-course in basic social sciences.

From Tribe to Modern Civilization…and Back?

All people on this planet have the same basic needs for food, water, clothing, and shelter.  People everywhere live in families, or primary groups, and they get these needs in one of two ways:  in a way that is individually and socially beneficial, or in a way that is damaging socially and eventually to themselves, i.e. illegally according to the group’s/society’s laws-of-behavior.  The methods of obtaining these basic life-needs are directly proportional to a society’s advancement or decline in relation to available resources; or in an advanced civilization, the opportunities available.  I would like to elaborate on this basic social equation.

Advancement in a civilization can be categorized in six stages essentially developing for the greater good.  Decline in a civilization is the reverse of these stages coupled with and caused by increased crime, civil revolt, and/or war(s), and deteriorate the greater good.  In my diagram Development of Civilization right, the United States is by global comparisons clearly in the last blue stage.  However, most indicators show that we are digressing, not only by global rankings but by our own domestic indicators as well.

The Human Development Index (HDI) is an index created by the United Nations Development Program to measure development of all member nations according to a composite indicator of life-expectancy (healthcare), educational attainment for youth and adults (primary, secondary, and tertiary programs & literacy rates), and finally individual income-wealth (Per capita gross domestic product).  According to the index covering 1975 to 2005, a thirty-year period, you might be surprised that the United States does not rank in the top 10.  Over the scope of annual indices the U.S. ranks higher.  However, a 30-year scope shows a trend.  Here are the rankings:

  1. Iceland
  2. Norway
  3. Australia
  4. Canada
  5. Ireland
  6. Sweden
  7. Switzerland
  8. Japan
  9. Netherlands
  10. France
  11. Finland
  12. United States

Life-expectancy is directly related to a society’s or nation’s healthcare system.  In the 1975 Human Development Index the United States ranked sixth barely above Norway; a real fall in less than one family generation for one of the most advanced civilizations.  However, this 30-year index doesn’t paint the whole picture.  The World Health Organization (WHO) published a ranking in 2000 of the world’s health systems.  Out of 190 nations the U.S. ranked 37th.  The 2000 report was WHO’s last publishing due to vast complexities in compilation.  The Common Wealth Fund did a study of 19 industrialized nations on deaths considered amenable to healthcare before the age of 75.  In their 2002-2003 study the U.S. ranked 14th.  Yet, the U.S. ranks 1st or 2nd worldwide in total expenditures toward healthcare as a percentage of its GDP according to WHO.  To put it another way, in Italy, Hong Kong, France, or Japan, citizens pay much less for noticeably better overall healthcare.

The attainment of education is also directly related to a nation’s social and economic development or decline.  Education and literacy directly affect a civilization’s progress.  If literacy and education are stable and improving, so goes the civilization.  If education and literacy are unstable and declining, so goes the de-civilization of its people.  According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) the U.S. ranked 16th worldwide for literacy (reading, math, & science above 15 yrs old) in 2000, ranked 27th in 2006, and 23rd by 2011 according to UNESCO.  A muddling in the mid to low 20’s will not improve over future generations unless attainment of quality education by our general population improves.  This in turn requires tax revenues as well as a proportionate per capita GDP.  But this is not happening.  Though America is one of the wealthiest nations in the world, the overall American standard of living has been in serious decline since at least 1981.

A dysfunctional healthcare system and underfunded public education system will have tragic implications for American society.  Joseph E. Stiglitz is the 2001 Nobel Prize winner in economics.  He writes in The Price of Inequality:  How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future:

The consequences of pervasive and persistent poverty and long-term underinvestment in public education and other social expenditure [healthcare] are also manifest in other indicators that our society is not functioning as it should: a high level of crime, and a large fraction of the population in prison.  While violent-crime statistics are better than they were at their nadir (in 1991), they remain high, far worse than in other advanced industrial countries, and they impose large economic and social costs on our society.  Residents of many poor (and not so poor) neighborhoods still feel the risk of physical assault.  It’s expensive to keep 2.3 million people [illiterate or semi-illiterate] in prison.  The U.S. incarceration rate of 730 per 100,000 people (or almost 1 in 100 adults), is the world’s highest and some nine to ten times that of many European countries.  Some U.S. states spend as much on their prisons as they do on their universities.

As I mentioned earlier, a civilization on the decline has increased crime intertwined with widening social and economic wealth-to-poverty levels.  When the opportunities for socio-economic advancement are hard, few and far between for a country’s impoverished, or semi-bankrupt per capita GDP families making only $41,890 per year in 2005, obtaining basic or moderate life-needs turns immoral or criminal.  At least two sets of statistics indicate this trend.

Generation Extreme – Death Rates of Young People

This bleak outlook doesn’t improve.  In 2011 the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and University of Melbourne published a table ranking 28 industrialized – or modernized – civilizations according to their mortality rate of 10 to 24 year olds per 100,000 population by traffic accidents, violence, suicide, and “other” causes.  Sadly, it ranks the United States first in all four categories, with the most glaring difference being deaths by violence, out doing the other 27 countries substantially.

One way or another these numbers can be attributed to any combination of three variables:  lack of happiness, lack of education, and lack of social-balance.  And these three factors are derived from available or unavailable resources and opportunities.

A Growing Popularity toward Immorality and Crime

Get a stout cocktail, this statistic doesn’t paint a pretty picture either.  In 2007 the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) released statistical data regarding nation’s prison populations and incarceration rates.  Once again the U.S. ranks first, or highest in number of prisoners per 100,000 population.  Our total prison population is nearly three times higher as the second highest nation Russia.

One indicator of the immorality rate is hate crime statistics.  In 1990 Congress enacted the FBI Hate Crimes Statistics Act but not all states reported during the following five years.  In 1996 all fifty states reported their data.  Here are those results for the following 14-year period shown in the table.

As the data indicates, religious, ethnic/national origin, and sexual orientation are and have been on a steady climb.  A statistic I do not need to illustrate is America’s appalling divorce rate (over 50% in 2010).  For the sake of time, I will also not include incidents of domestic-family violence not related to racial, religious, ethnic/national origin, sexual orientation, or physical-mental disability.  These cases are typically attributed in various combinations to psychological, psychiatric, and drug-abuse or addiction.  Naturally the treatment and management of these problems goes back to available healthcare, and on a broader scale education, employment/unemployment, and overall happiness.

I stated earlier that the United States is on a path to socio-economic collapse, remarkably like the great Roman Empire.  The familiar cliché history repeats itself, could not be truer here.  Yet, many Americans believe we are the strongest wealthiest nation on earth of which all nations should model themselves.  True, but only on the surface and ONLY in the top 1 percent of the population or the top 10% at best.  The lower 90-99% has seen their standard of living erode frankly.  Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz describes our historic predicament strikingly Romanesque:

If struggling poor families get our sympathy today, those at the top increasingly draw our ire.  At one time, when there was a broad social consensus that those at the top earned what they got, they received our admiration.  In the recent crisis, however, bank executives received outsize bonuses for outsize losses, and firms fired workers, claiming they couldn’t afford them, only to use the savings to increase executive bonuses still more.  The result was that admiration at their cleverness turned to anger at their insensitivities…

…We described earlier the huge gap between CEO pay and that of the typical worker – more than 200 times greater – a number markedly higher than in other countries (in Japan, for instance, the corresponding ratio is 16 to 1) and even markedly higher than it was in the United States a quarter century ago.  The old U.S. ratio of 30 to 1 now seems quaint by comparison…

…What’s worse, we have provided a bad [model], as executives in other countries around the world emulate their American counterparts.  The UK’s High Pay Commission reported that the executive pay at its large companies is heading toward Victorian levels of inequality, vis-à-vis the rest of society (though currently the disparity is only as egregious as it was in the 1920’s).  As the report puts it, “…publicly listed companies sets a precedent, and when it is patently not linked to [overall] performance, or rewards [overall] failure, it sends out the wrong message and is a clear symptom of market failure.”

If you are familiar with ancient Roman civilization, or even Victorian civilization in Europe, then you are also familiar with the stark inequality of their respective populations.  Both Rome and the great British Empire of the 18th century CE crumbled under this bloated weight of inequality.  Rome vanished and Britain to a mere semblance of its former glory.  Obviously at the risk of oversimplification, this socio-economic inequality is the consequence of the denial of the altruistic and philanthropic system of the Greatest Good for the Greatest Number lifestyle.  I will return to this concept later, but first I want to explain another accurate form of socio-economic performance.

The Gini Coefficient (illustrated left) measures the degree of inequality of the distribution of family income within a nation.  Basically, a gini coefficient of zero indicates perfect equality, and a gini coefficient of one represents a maximum inequality of incomes.  Nations with coefficients of 0.3 or below are considered mostly equal.  Nations with coefficients of 0.5 or above are considered mostly unequal.  If you have finished your stout cocktail, pour another because this U.S. comparison to the rest of the world is going to break your heart.

According to the 2011 CIA World Factbook – Gini Index, the United States ranks practically the same as Cameroon (Africa) and Uruguay (South America).  Stiglitz puts it in these terms:  “According to UN data, we are slightly more unequal than Iran and Turkey, and much less equal than any country in the European Union.”  Our actual CIA World Factbook ranking has us at 95th, behind the likes of not only Cameroon but Uganda, Nicaragua, Vietnam, Mongolia, and Pakistan to name a few.

The Indicators Re-examined

Performances of family income inequality don’t tell the entire story.  The Land of Opportunity’s real story may in fact be much worse than these numbers are indicating.  For example, in other modern European civilizations their people do not worry about how to pay medical expenses, or how to afford taking care of their elderly parents, or how their children will receive a well-funded education.  Attaining all these social benefits are viewed as a basic human right!  In other advanced nations, the citizens put a heavy emphasis on hard work at a job, but they do not worry so much if they lose their job because their unemployment programs are good.  In these advanced countries, homeowners do not concern themselves with foreclosure anywhere near as much as Americans.  Social and economic insecurity for lower-class and middle-class Americans has become the rule-of-thumb.  And if these international comparisons bear some level of truth, the United States is worse off than it prefers to portray itself.

If the picture is not quite in focus, then Stiglitz concludes these performance indicators this way:

  1. Recent U.S. income growth primarily occurs at the top 1 percent of the income distribution.
  2. As a result there is growing inequality.
  3. And those at the bottom and in the middle are actually worse-off today than they were at the beginning of the century.
  4. Inequalities in wealth are even greater than inequalities in income.
  5. Inequalities are apparent not just in income but in a variety of other variables that reflect standards of living, such as insecurity [fear and sadness] and health.
  6. Life is particularly harsh at the bottom – and the recession made it much worse.
  7. There has been a hollowing out of the middle class.
  8. There is little income mobility – the notion of America as a land of opportunity is a myth.
  9. And America has more inequality than any other advanced industrialized country, it does less to correct these inequalities, and inequality is growing more than in many other countries.

As the American Conservative Right describes this socio-economic outlook, even Mitt Romney, these facts are inconvenient to them and should be whispered in private.  There is no need to point out what sectors of the American population the phrase “American Conservative Right” refers.  However, the philosophy they cherish, project, and protect is essentially no different from Ancient Rome’s and Victorian Britain’s elite.  The proverbial phrases “You need money to make money” and “the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer” are simply true today.

Greatest Good for the Greatest Number

One could argue that the concept of the greatest good for the greatest number is socialism and its initiative found in communism.  This type of argument is frequently revealed in American Conservative Right rhetoric.  Not surprisingly, you also discover that the Conservative Right has a majority of religious-political advocates, many from various forms of Christianity (and a growing population of Islam).  I find this social-political position utterly fascinating and in alarming conflict with the founding principles of the very same theology (and scriptural basis) they proclaim membership.  For a more in depth look at this background, read my April 2011 article Constantine:  Christianity’s True Catalyst/Christ.  It and its references bring to light the utter success that the Judeo-Jesus movement of the 1st century CE was in reality a welfare-system phenomena for Rome’s grossly outsized and mistreated poor; ironically, not unlike the heading of America’s social-economic system.

Simply and factually put, the philosophy-turning-lifestyle of the Greatest Good for the Greatest Number has been preached, taught, prophesied, born-out, died-for, whatever the case, in just about all of history’s great reformers.  From Gautama Buddha in c. 563 BCE to Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968, one theme stands out from all their wisdom:  there is something more and larger than yourself.  What can you imagine as this theme’s reciprocal, or antithesis?  Think of as many possible oppositions as you can.

The fall of Rome c. 455 CE

Now synthesize your list of oppositions into a summation.  It should reflect an inflated ego, whether it is one, many, or a system, it carries with it an awareness and action for self and for few – as well as those who benefit our self.  It also carries with it a reduced lack of awareness and action for the whole system – as well as those who we tolerate and/or are intolerant.  When viewed in this light, the inequality that is today’s America is absolutely no different from ancient Rome or Victorian Britain.  You have the superior and the inferior, and the two should remain mostly separate.  The inferior are such because they are illiterate.  They lack a good education because it is next to impossible to attain.  The inferior are diseased because of their illiteracy and lack of medical treatment because it is next to impossible to attain.  The inferior are unskilled workers because of their illiteracy to understand the complex nuances of business and ingenuity, and to gain this understanding is next to impossible without heavy coin.

Is my America-Rome analogy that far-fetched?  Your response should turn to civil action; we do live in a country that OFFERS a model of social-political freedom.  I come from a family and middle-class background that worked and works its ass off to gain a little more of the American dream.  During my generation, and perhaps during my children’s generation, we have seen those opportunities all but vanish.  My children and I face almost exactly what my grandparents faced during the Great Depression and World War II.  As a boy then, my father faced strict food and material rations for over fourteen years!  Our current Great Recession, economists state, began in 2007.  Here we are in mid-2012, five years later.

Whatever your situation, I will repeat what I said at the start.

Due in part to the nation-wide recession and severe federal-state education cuts and the increasing gap of social-economic inequality in America (families in poverty vs. families with great wealth), my workload and hours are increasing between 25-30% for the 2012-2013 school year.  However, my meek salary and annual increase has been frozen – while our cost-of-living continues to run free like a gorilla in a banana farm.  Even more astonishing, the social expenditures to address and manage our nation’s growing impoverished families – the exact families my students come from – are dropping through the basement in alarming amounts.  Let me reiterate:

The social expenditures to address and manage our nation’s growing impoverished families – the exact families my students come from – are dropping through the basement in alarming amounts, even disappearing!

And by the way, our enrollment/placement of special-needs students are increasing (and therefore class sizes with fewer teachers) because several identical charter schools in the region had to close their doors due to funding cuts.

In the boom years before the 2007-08 crisis, the top 1 percent seized more than 65% of the gain in total national income.  And while the GDP grew, most American citizens saw their standard of living fall into the basement.  In 2010, as the nation floundered to stay afloat, the 1 percent (even the top 10%) gained 93% of the additional income created in the so-called recovery.  As those at the top continue to enjoy the best healthcare, education, and benefits of wealth in a Reagan-freed-market system, they often fail to realize that, as Rome’s elite fatally ignored, “their fate is bound up” Stiglitz highlights, “with how the other 99 percent live.”

No matter the social, economic, or intellectual differences, we ALL need each other and MUST find and implement civilized efficient, evolving, fair systems toward the Greatest Good for the Greatest Number, or we will go down in history as the 2nd Rise and Fall of the 2nd Roman Empire.

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Repost – Sexual and Gender Ambiguity: My Once Gross Ignorance

Since posting this in April 2011, it has been my most popular blog with over 11,000 views so far. It seems a good idea to reblog it since intersex births and sexual orientations are commonly misunderstood or avoided, or worse… attacked.

In my archaic way of thinking, or perhaps as my conservative culture taught me, I thought that a boy was a boy not only by how similar he acted among me and other boys, but also because of his genitalia.  And a girl was a girl not only by how similar she acted among other girls, but because of her genitalia as well.  It all seemed pretty obvious and quite simple, so I thought for more than 30 years.

A few years ago my mother informed me of the death of a dear family friend and halfway-house mother to my sister of addiction and innumerable relapses.  She had been there for my mom and other women countless times as my sister fought her disease on the losing end.  This woman had been a pillar of hope and therapy in the community for battered, abused women, and many typically in chemical addiction.  I was unaware that she had been what is often termed as an “intersexed baby”; a prenatal condition I knew absolutely nothing about.  Subsequently, this not-so-rare occurrence completely overhauled my views on sexual orientation, “same-sex” marriage, and gender identity.

Exact numbers of intersexed births are difficult to determine due to the lack of a humane dignifying definition of what physically should be considered normal or abnormal.  The ignorance and social stigma the condition carries with it is as much a part of the difficulty as the collective understanding by medical science.  Despite the ongoing studies one thing is quite clear.  Sexual orientation, same-sex marriage, and gender identity IS NOT a social-religious debate, period.

Here is some perspective.  It is commonly accepted in the medical community that on a global scale there are likely as many intersexed births as there are Jews.  It is more common than multiple-sclerosis.  More specifically, according to the Intersex Society of North America, about one in 100 births are intersexed or do not fall under “standard” male or female identity.  One in 1,666 births has no clear XX or XY chromosome structure.  For a more expansive report of all types of intersex conditions visit the ISNA (http://www.isna.org/faq/frequency) website.  With chromosome structures outside of the traditional gender dichotomy, how can sexual or gender identity ever be separated from a genetic hard-wiring?  Intersexed people could not have made the presumed adolescent or adult choice in “un-Godly perversion” if their condition formed in the womb.  As such, social political shaming of these people can never be justified by any ideology.  In fact, under such an archaic model one could argue that the molecular, biological, hormonal embryonic designing of intersex babies is from God’s workshop.  Think about those implications.

The available prenatal and neonatal hormonal development studies are showing that aside from physical conditions, the development of testosterone and estrogen levels, or the under-developed levels, can sometimes vary widely.  Pediatric and adolescent psychology has shown that intersex patient’s social behavior are indeed influenced by the relative levels of these and other gender hormones not necessarily specific to their external natal anatomy.  A wonderful comprehensive article on the intricacies of intersexed births by Joy A. Bilharz can be found in her scholarly report (Click here).  I highly recommend reading it two or three times.  With this medical knowledge, it is not a stretch by any means to theorize, if not conclude, that there are smaller variations hormonally and neurologically in the general “natural” population that despite their social catch-all external anatomy, internally their gender development is different starting at conception.

For me, this is obvious:  The rigid binary sexual-gender identification models many Americans have must be trashed for a more biologically, chromosome-informed model for not only political-legal reasons, but more importantly for humane reasons.  However, the LGBT and intersex communities must avoid pendulum-mania.  Elitism would certainly hamper hard fought gains.  As Joy Bilharz notes,

The transgender movement…is attempting to breakdown the boxes into which people are pigeonholed on the basis of actual or presumed characteristics. Unfortunately, however, it has shown itself to be as exclusive and intolerant in many respects as the society whose values it rejects. This may represent the radical beginning typical of most social movements and it certainly doesn’t represent all of those who see themselves as transgendered. On the other hand, an attempt to bring all sex and gender and sexual minorities under a single umbrella of “queerness” can also be seen as having a homogenizing effect that creates discord within the category as different groups jockey for leadership positions or stake out their exclusive turf.

From a legal-political standpoint, I encourage the intersex/LGBT community to show first and foremost that they have something very unique to offer society without segregating it.  A tall order in some cases, yes.  But remember, men like myself, however fortunate to have grown up in a Humanist home, who are heterosexual and unaware that there are truly MORE flavor’s of ice cream than simply vanilla or chocolate.  Since the condition did not directly affect my family, I was a product of our society’s concealment-approach to intersex and sexual orientation.

In defense of those like me, it is mindful to remember the “democracy” the United States of  America was founded and later built upon:  primarily European theological and social doctrines, which traditionally ostracized non-Catholics, or non-Protestants, or non-Christians who challenged or questioned them.  Do not despair.  Our nation’s brief history is laden with violent civil-rights movements that took many decades and generations to change legally.  Fortunately, they did happen.  One day, hopefully soon, ignorance will once again be overcome.

[Later addition]  Our wonderful close family friend had told my Mom that for her entire life she felt her doctor and parents made the wrong gender choice for her at birth.  She never felt as if she was female.  Her social assimilation growing up was often unbearable at times eventually leading to prescription drug addiction, alcoholism, and illegal drug addiction.  Thankfully, by her late thirties she turned her life around with large support by chemical dependency programs but most of all the support by other intersex support groups.  As a result, she became the Director of no less than four women’s halfway-houses!  Listening to my mother speak so fondly about her, I cannot help but wonder what mental and emotional state my Mom might otherwise be in, much less my sister.  Thank all goodness in this Universe that someone so special and unique as her was THERE for us….us “standard” humans who too often treat people like her politically and socially as sub-human.

If this blog has piqued your interest, let me know and begin your own study of the subject.  Start perhaps with Wikipedia’s basic overview:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_differentiation#Hormonal_differentiation.  I think you will find how much you DIDN’T know.

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