I believe that

Wherever I go, this will always remind me of home.

Citizens of the U.S.A. enjoy limitless possibilities to a degree that’s uncommon if not actually unique.

“…Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth” — if I have anything to say about it.

At its best, the U.S.A. is a nation of ideas and goals before tradition and convention.

The success of the Republic is due in no small part to a series of fortunate accidents — two barrier oceans, ample room for territorial expansion, and neighbor states with compatible civic values among them.

The opportunity to be “an American” without being forced to completely surrender one’s ancestral heritage is an uncommon and valuable gift that we are blessed to share.

The existence of a Deity is not inextricable from the values espoused and codified by the Founding Fathers, but the faith afforded by belief in a Deity is a critical factor in the subsequent history of the Republic.

What we as Americans need to do, we always can.

It’s no coincidence (and as much to the point, an amusing echo of history) that the Web was invented by a Briton and vaulted into uniquitous use first in the U.S.A.

Citizens of the Republic hold peace as a fundamental civic value… until they’re attacked, at which point the wish for peace is put aside without trepidation, and retribution becomes the order of the day.

The strength with which our towns, cities, counties, and states are stitched together into one Republic brazenly proves that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

Our grasp of the notion of community explains much, if not most, of our generosity as a Nation.

If we keep at it, the rights enshrined by the Declaration of Independence and championed by the Republic’s greatest — William Penn, Tom Paine, Patrick Henry, James Madison, Henry David Thoreau, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Rev. King, among them — can be realized in our lifetimes.

I also believe that

If I give into the itchiness of my feet, I may well find my happiness along distant shores.

The loudest voices in our national discourse seem to have mistaken the instance of “Happiness” in the Declaration of Independence for “avarice.”

Career civil servants and deficit-finance oligarchs haul about a sense of entitlement that is antithetical to American values.

The eminently American directive “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is too often a signal that someone lacks the huevos to entertain new ideas… and too often used.

We as a nation have not even begun to make amends for our abuses of the political advantages afforded by geography.

Too many insist that being a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant is more valuable, and more important, than being an American — and that in forcing that belief on others just because they can, they are being hypocritical to a degree that must horrify the God in whom many of them profess to believe.

We’ve largely forgotten the extent to which the values enshrined by the First Amendment to the Consititution — particularly “the free exercise [of religion]” — recognize the bedrock of our nation’s history.

Too many of us have forgotten that the needs of the People are usually at cross purposes with the near term demands of Commerce, a forgetfulness gleefully accommodated by the scions of Commerce at every turn.

Special interests fail to realize that if the Web is shoehorned into their ideals, it will lose most of the value that made it such a tempting target for regulation in the first place.

We risk losing sight of the need to “go forward to preserve in peace what we have won in war.”

The ongoing complication of our lives by technology such as cars, smartphones, cable television, and billing software is pulling our communities apart one household at a time.

Personal wealth, not social justice, has become the preeminent value that earns Americans’ respect, all professions of faith notwithstanding.

To our shame, women and people of color have for too long been consigned — almost without exception — to the back rows of our national auditorium of ideas.

References

Music

Aaron Copland, “Fanfare for the Common Man”
@amazon
@allmusic

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Beliefs, No. 1

Beliefs, No. 1 —by Ben Henick, 4 July 2010

All journal entries

  1. Talking About the Weather
  2. To the Rafters?
  3. Coming of Age with Killer Apps
  4. Race to the Bottom
  5. Meditations on Decay
  6. Net Neutrality, or the Lack Thereof
  7. Three Problems
  8. Post Mortem of a Book Project
  9. The Egg and the Chicken
  10. Yellow Dog
  11. Digging Through the Clutter
  12. Lessons from Mom
  13. Being Careful What You Wish For
  14. Out on a Limb
  15. Beliefs, No. 1
  16. Like a Chimney
  17. Does Not Compute
  18. Past Trends, Future Results
  19. Beyond These Four Walls
  20. Competence, Confidence, and Reality
  21. Anesthesia
  22. King of the Mountain
  23. “A Deer in the Headlights”

Disclaimer: This is definitely self-indulgent. If you don’t like it, read somebody else.

This nook of the Internet is my antidote for Twitter. ©2010 Ben Henick, all rights reserved.

Job, or hell?

Yesterday I happened on two links. (Good grief, I love the Web.) The first is an e-mail alideshow of sorts aimed at the guts of some hypocrite named Spencer, the author’s (erstwhile imaginary) boss. The second is an article in Slate discussing the (un-) desirability of low- to mid-level service jobs.

…And then there’s the story of the flight attendant who on Monday found a spectacular way to say “take this job and shove it” after being verbally assaulted at length by a passenger.

All three pieces are a kick. Reading them in rapid succession, as I did yesterday afternoon, is a kick in the guts. The article about jobs-in-general particularly evoked from me a visceral response.

Rich get richer, poor get poorer

The sense of entitlement to profit that I raised a few days ago is evident in every talk about compensation I’ve heard about, or participated in, in the past several years. It seems to me like the vast majority want labor for the cheapest they can possibly obtain, while remaining content to throw handfuls of money at senior management and holders of equity — even ones who, as it turns out, contribute little or nothing.

It always seems like the same old story: hire somebody with the basic minimum of proven ability in order to get away with paying them as little as possible, train them up to the minimum needed by the organization, fire the ones who don’t take comfortably to that scheme at the instant they’re identified, and work the others to the bone until they burn out.

I believe that on some level, most people recognize that this is going on. However, I struggle to understand why. It seems axiomatic to me that people who feel valued will work harder, yet the trend moves toward every possible effort to remind people that they’re replaceable and ought to get the best out of things while they can.

Compassion vs. sociopathy

The only fact that adequately explains this prevailing state of affairs is broad, unwitting subscription to the system cobbled together from the amoral rants of a mildly nutty Russian emigré. On balance that would not be so bad, except that like that ethos’ nemeses — Communism and Christianity — “Objectivism” works a hell of a lot better in theory than in practice.

I see two deep flaws with this ethos, deepening my my confusion. First, we can’t all be Howard Roark; lots of us lack the temperament requisite to that outcome. As much to the point, if we all could have and act upon that power, civilization as we know it would rapidly descend into barbarism. One man’s clear thinker is another’s cold-hearted sonofabitch, and the latter type is awfully good at inducing conflict.

Second, human beings possess and act upon compassion compulsively; the ones who habitually refuse or fail to do so are (rightly) called sociopaths. We all recognize that the chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and communities tend to raise the minimum when given the chance. Cutting loose that weak link instead… goes a bit far.

Meritocracy

The happy finish of the labor market’s neo-Nietzchean race to the botom can be found in two virtues that are compatible with all of the belief systems in play: honesty and fidelity.

As it stands, the realities of social (im-) mobility leave some with first-class tickets, and consign the rest to steerage barring both outstanding luck and superlative effort. Furthermore, there are no guarantees that anyone who manages to climb their way out of steerage won’t be shoved back down by some vindictive asshole.

Rewarding honesty and fidelity in the workplace — and penalizing those who lie, cheat, and habitually cover their asses — would go a long way toward making the labor market a better place for everybody.

We have the technological capacity to discover and promote out of steerage quickly the ones who’ve earned it, as a matter of course. We can do the reverse for those who feel most inclined to rest on their laurels. Why don’t we?

Music

Hey Lewis & The News, “Workin’ for a Livin’”
@amazon
@allmusic