Saturday, January 26, 2013


What is predictable? People!

You can pretty much count on the predictability of people like you can count on the fact that it will be 12 noon everyday at the same time in whatever time zone you lives. So, what's wrong with being predictable? Actually, in most cases, nothing. We can predict when the sun will rise and fall, the tides will come in and go out, when there will be a new moon, when the seasons will change and how the vast majority of people will live and react to specific situations.

Based on the premise that we can predict how the majority of people will live and react to specific situations, anyone who doesn't fit this pattern is an enigma. It's easy to understand why individuals who "choose" not to adhere to these predictable patterns are considered "non-conformists," "outsiders," and "mavericks." But, are we really all that different?

Well, based on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs pyramid, no, we're not. Here is a simple representation of Maslow's pyramid:

 Certainly, at the base of the pyramid all our physiological needs are pretty much the same. But, by the time we move up to the second step of the pyramid there are significant differences that start becoming noticeable. The third step, while it seems that we might all be pretty similar, harbors even more differences. The fourth step opens up more opportunities for differences. And, in my opinion, probably a majority of people never achieve the step of true self-actualization.

Two Fringe Groups

There is the general population in cultures and societies that aligns very closely with the Hierarchy Pyramid. Then, as I see it. there are two fringe groups.

One of the fringe groups is composed of folks I like to refer to as Living Free. It's a very minute percentage of the total population. This living free concept is, of course, the basis for this blog. The unique characteristic about this living free group is that, for the most part, they are non-conformists and mavericks. The only credo is living free and choosing to live differently than the vast majority of the population. Some individuals in the group live this way due to a variety of  unfortunate circumstances. However, like the early hunting and gathering bands, they seek the basics of life and carve out a niche for themselves.

Others in this group are in a position where they could easily choose to live the stereotypical and predominant lifestyle of their culture or society. Perhaps they have already been there and have chosen to abandon that lifestyle for one of personal freedom.

Allow me to make some disclaimers. Some of what I'm saying is broad generalizations. Some of it may be exaggerated for impact. There is no one-size fits all. But, I'm far from a radical political thinker. And, let's not kid ourselves. There is no such thing as total freedom in this world. In some manner we all are influenced and have to bow to "The Man."

However, in a world that has become so complex, expensive, time consuming or, maybe it's better to say, all consuming, this group of individuals choose small, compact, simple and economical lifestyles. Some are embracing a small, but growing movement toward "Tiny Houses." Others are living in rural locations in small cabins or refurbished travel trailers. Still others may have chosen to give up the sticks and bricks homes in the city or suburbs in favor of a nomadic life, like a turtle, with their house on their backs, living full-time in various forms of recreational vehicles, vans or even cars. There are even a few who pack a tent and travel by motorcycle or even walk.

This group of living free, non-conformists, while often envied by the masses who stay in "The System," are probably the least understood. I dare say, this group of people may also be the most content, fulfilled and happiest in the ways that matter most.

The other fringe group is the "Power Class." These are the people who, consciously or sub-consciously, claw, kick and bite their way to the top of the various societal structures purely for the heady feeling of power and/or to achieve great wealth, regardless of the cost. Of course, none of them will ever admit that openly. They want everyone to believe that they are there to "serve" you and me and the "working class." But, don't let that fool you. They are narcissistic power and greed driven, easily corruptible individuals who will use anyone and any means to achieve their own ends. You know who they are. They run our governments, major government agencies, the military, the financial system, the major industrial complex and so on.

Of course, to be fair, there are a few people who are not power hungry, greedy, corruptible narcissists who manage to make it into some of these lofty positions. But, it's interesting how, unfortunately, sooner or later, they seem to fall into the pattern. One recent example is Lance Armstrong. Once a hero, role model and the image of overcoming challenges like his cancer. Today, an admitted cheater, liar, fraud and abuser of anyone who got in his way.

Listen to the President(s), listen to the outgoing Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton when being questioned about her failings and those she led and her leader said of the four Americans murdered in Libya, "Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they'd go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?" That's pure arrogance from someone supposedly charged with the responsibility for the safety and security of her charges and representing her country, its integrity and its people.

Back to the Predictable - Greece and Spain

So, what does all this have to do with predictability? In a word, everything.

Why am I bringing up Greece and Spain? It's simple, really. People are predictable because they will react in similar fashions in similar situations. Much of Europe has been extremely liberal in government employment. The governments are over employed (too many people to do the job), provide large amounts of vacation, personal time, sick time and other time off, cushy benefits including, universal healthcare, early retirements and large pensions. Additionally, they have required this same thing from private sector jobs, usually through unions.

But, someone has to pay for all this. Their tax structures and revenues didn't bring in enough to cover it all, especially when the Great Recession, spawned by the U.S. economy, impacted them. The result has been that unemployment went up with large numbers of government employees and private sector employees being laid off. Government employees protested in some violent demonstrations when the government said they had to raise the retirement age and apply other necessary changes. The two countries where this has been most prominent have been Greece and Spain, however, Italy, Ireland, France and Belgium joined in.

It's really quite simple. We want everything, don't want to give up anything, BUT don't want to pay any more money in taxes to keep taking. "Don't cut our wages. Don't cut our cushy hours and vacations. Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! I don't care how you get the money, that's your problem. Just gimme more." That is the cry of the masses of people who have relinquished their freedom (and don't even realize it) in exchange for security and handouts.

The U.S. is facing precisely the same set of circumstances. Now, the narcissistic leaders in Congress and the White House want the masses to believe they are going to solve the problem by supposedly cutting deficit spending by some minute fraction of the total spending and taxing the wealthiest part of the population. This is pretty much the same thing as you or me wracking up a $100,000 credit card debt and only paying the minimum due on the monthly statement, while continuing to spend at a higher rate each year. It won't work. So, why is it that a simpleton like me, using basic elementary school and high school arithmetic can understand this, but the mass of the population doesn't get it. And worse yet, is it that the narcissists in Congress and the White House don't get it either (that's very scary) or in the words of our out-going Secretary of State,"What difference at this point does it make?"

I caught a clip on the news last night about the Pentagon planning to furlough all their civilian federal employees one day each week without pay to save 20% of their annual payroll for civilian employees. The employees are already protesting and it hasn't even been officially announced. Sounds just like Greece, Spain and the other European countries. How about if we cut back all the salaries of Congress men and women and their staffs, cut the president's, vice-president's, cabinet members and all of their staff members by 20%? How about if we eliminated paid holidays, vacations, sick days, maternal or paternal maternity leave, personal days and pay for days when the government closes for bad weather? How about if we pared back their pension plans increased the amount of time in service to qualify for retirement pensions and made sure they were on the same healthcare plans as the rest of the population. By the way, it's the rest of the population who have to work to generate the money to pay the federal payroll and benefits?

We can, of course, carry this down to state and local government employees, too. The private sector already knows how this feels, but they're going to have to bite the bullet more, too. Maybe some jobs will need to be consolidated in the government sector. Maybe we need to close down some government departments and agencies that are redundant. Why not sell off all the surplus government property, buildings, resources and equipment that is tying up and costing capital.

I'll tell you what will happen. The Occupy Wall Street protests will look like a Kindergarten recess at an elementary school. The excuses from the Pentagon civilian employees as to why they can't take cuts are flying like crazy - I have kids in college (so do private sector parents); I have a sick spouse, husband, whoever (so do private sector employees); I won't be able to pay all my bills (so do private sector employees and why are you living outside your means???); etc., etc. Of course, it doesn't matter that the civilian counterparts in the private sector have been enduring this for at least the past five years. It doesn't matter that many of the private sector folks have lost their pensions, IRA's, 401k's, health insurance plans and even their jobs - and now they're going to have to pay a "tax that will not be treated as a tax" penalty if they can't afford to buy private health insurance.

We'll see work stoppages and work slowdowns. We'll see government employees going on strike (like Greece and Spain). Sure, it's against federal law for federal employees to strike against the government, but since government employees are represented by unions (Only 11.3% of the entire U.S. workforce is currently members of a union and by far the largest number are government employees), they will do it anyway. The government won't have the manpower to arrest the strikers, detention facilities, courts and prosecutors to try them nor the prisons to incarcerate them for their breach of federal law. So, it will be a moot point.

It's All Very Predictable

Additionally, let's consider the unfortunate people in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and other states severely impacted by Superstorm Sandy. Their losses are unimaginable. Those unfortunate Superstorm Sandy folks are now whining, crying and becoming more belligerently vocal because the federal government hasn't dropped all the myriad of other priorities to give them money that doesn't even exist. Predictably, it's the same thing that happened with the Hurricane Katrina victims.

But, is it really the responsibility of the rest of the citizens, who chose not to live in high risk locations, to provide the funds for rebuilding these homes and businesses in the same risky location? Consider how much help the farmers and residents of areas along the large navigable rivers receive when those rivers flood. They know they're going to flood. They have to account for that. Most of their assistance comes from their own resources. How about people who build homes in idyllic mountains and forest lands where wild fires are regular occurrences?

It simply has no end. And, the sad thing is that, except for the two fringe groups, no one else seems to get it. If you want freedom, you have to be responsible and accountable for your own actions. If I do something stupid, that's my responsibility. If I choose to live a lifestyle I can't afford and my job is eliminated, it's not my employer's responsibility nor is it the responsibility of my neighbors or the productive revenue generating parts of society (which the government is not and suckles off, is never weaned from and continues to become more and more insatiable).

Predictability! While I don't condemn the majority of the population who have bought into the system (we've all been sold a bill of goods by the narcissists), I also cannot feel sorry for them. Just as I've made choices in my life that were detrimental, so have they. But, I don't look for them to take responsibility for my choices, right or wrong. Therefore, I predictably see the world continuing down this predictable road to perdition, still believing that 2+2=22. They won't understand why they are in pain, why they are sliding backwards and why, sometime in the future, it will all come crashing down like a house of cards. Life is predictable.   


Melissa West said...

How dare you make broad generalizations!

Humans are predicable. Look back through history and there is an obvious pattern of self-destruction. Obviously humans never learn from their mistakes either, so predictable not to learn from our mistakes. There will always be the have and have nots. Then all those which fall in-between. There will always be people looking for hand out or someone to fix their problems. There will always be greedy people looking to make a buck of the back of someone else. The list could go on. It’s the few and rare individuals that are not so predicable that make life acceptable.

I don’t believe in the concept of a non-conformist. Someone’s conforming to something. Just because its not a popular idea doesn’t mean one isn’t conforming to an idea. Living in a van is outside of the main stream thought process but it’s not non-conformist either. I mean…now we are just conforming to the other van dwellers. Or so I think.

Ed Helvey - Professional Nomad said...

Thanks for helping make my point, Melissa.

As far as non-conformists, anyone who separates him or her self from the mainstream thinking in any way is labeled as not "playing by THE rules." As far as conforming as vandwellers, I would venture to say that the only major commonality in vandwellers is vandwelling itself. But, just about every vandweller seems to have somewhat unique thoughts, ideas, philosophies and plans on the how and why they are vandwelling. So, even within the group, there is a fair amount of non-conformity. That's one of the things that make the folks so interesting.


John W. Abert said...

I have just started reading into your blog, after recognizing the name from one of the Yahoo Groups of which we are both members. I agree with your entire way of thinking, excpet for one point where you said "money that doesn't exist". I'm sure you meant in the pockets of those who could dole it out, but the money does exist. Money never goes away, it simply gets shiifted from place to place. Although many will say the marketplace determines where it will end up, I think it is also partly up to the voters to determine that.

I am tired of seeing all these governement officials constantly increasing their incomes and other perks while the general public has to foot the bill for it. The American people are getting raped by their elected officials and still less than half the population bothers to vote, so that we can clean up the mess!

But this is not unusual. Whether it be participating in a classroom, or taking the time to comment on blogs, the vast majority have an uncaring attitude toward many things, whether it be education, their government, or what goes on next door. That uncaring attitude is what allowed 9/11 to happen, because we got too complacent in thinking that things like that don't happen here! We should have learned a lesson from that, and maybe some of us did, but the majority are still stuck in their non-caring mode of life. What doesn't affect them personally doesn't matter to them, and that attitude will be the downfall of this country! History has shown that every major power in the world has toppled at one time or another, and from everything I have seen in the way people behave, they will allow it to happen here... sooner or later. It has already started.

There is an upswing in statistics that show that more and more people are downsizing their lives for various reasons, and there is nothing wrong with people living within their means, however that may be. But I don't believe it will be enough to sway the majority, who still hang onto the belief that bigger is better, and that money is power. Only when enough of the independent thinkers can simplify their lives to the point where their meager tax obligation starves those who collect it and misuse it, will we see any change in government spending, but we are still too few to make much of a difference (yet).

I applaud you for your individualism and correct thinking. Doing what is right for yourself is never a wrong decision, and if others take heed of it and decide to do the same thing, it will keep excess money out of the hands of those who misuse it.