Sunday, October 16, 2011

#Occupy Wall Street Protests = Taxation without Representation

There are many different people attending the #Occupy Wall Street protests in NYC and all over the country.  There are many different political views, classes, ages, education levels and motivations there.  Someone said to me that there are people there who are just there to be part of something big.  They said it as if that was a bad thing.  I say, why not be part of something big?!  What a great reason to go, because you can believe if you don't know about the protests before you go, you better be sure that you will know once you experience it.  What a great learning experience.  I wish I could go and be a part of this something big!

I am sure there are people there just as hangers on, just for the food that is being distributed, just for the drugs that I am sure show up in a gathering of that size.  I am sure there are people who just want to agitate, there always are in such crowds.  But remarkably, from everything I have read and seen, the crowds seem very well mannered.  Civil even...and isn't that appropriate it since this a grand example of civil unrest. 

Civil unrest is how our country started.  How many of us remember "taxation without representation" from history class?  *raises hand*  I do.  This protest, when it is boiled down, is about the same thing.  People are tired of the smallest percentage of the population controlling the government of our country.  That is called an Oligarchy by the way.  As best as I recall, our government is supposed  to be a democracy, of the people, by the people for the people.  Not the wealthiest of the people, but all the people.  When our government bows to the concerns of the wealthiest, who aren't paying taxes at the same rates as the rest of  us, then that phrase comes back into play, "Taxation without representation",  because the middle class is paying the majority of taxes, yet the representatives are all serving only the wealthiest among us. 

Now.  Our forefathers protested in a much larger way, in a much less...civil way.  But they were protesting against a government that was much further away, and a monarchy as well.  Our government was made for us, and yet has now been usurped by the wealthiest 1% of the population, it has been bought out by the biggest corporations.  I am not advocating redistribution of honestly earned wealth.  I do believe that corporations that succeed in America do so, because our laws, our government, our system allows them to do that, and so these successful corporations should pay their dues, should pay back into the system that allows them to grow their wealth.  I think that these corporations should not just pay back into the system, but should be socially and environmentally responsible as well.  Why should they want to weaken our country, the very country that allowed them to grow successful, by creating environmental or social instability, by polluting or cutting corners in safety and health procedures, by not taking care of the employees that do the backbone of the work as well as they take care of the heads at the top of the pyramids. 

These are not original questions to me, nor are they unreasonable ones.   These are the sort of questions that the protestors are asking.  These protestors want to know why the investment bankers and reinsurance companies aren't being held to the same standards, the same laws as the rest of us.  So now, not only are the middle class paying the taxes, without real representation, but we are also being held to laws that the wealthiest are not being held to.  Wait a minute.  I thought that democracy meant everyone is equal, that same rights and laws apply to everyone.  Apparently I am mistaken.  At least these days.  There are more regulations about grandmothers selling their cookies at a local bake sale than there are regulations controlling investment bankers, handling huge chunks of our country's wealth. 

And why is that?  Because grandma cannot afford a cadre of lawyers and lobbyists to plead, or rather bribe her case to our representatives in the government.  Grandma pays her taxes, always has, but her voice isn't represented in our government anymore, because she cannot sell her cookies to amass her fortunes, or she wasn't born with a trust fund, she didn't cheat anyone out of the retirement savings by selling them purposefully risky investment vehicles that were insured and built to fail...

The protests are growing because there are more of us in the 99% than there are in the 1%, by definition alone!  We need to hearken back to our beginnings, stop representation without taxation.  Demand that our government stop representing only the wealthiest, demand that the government stop caving to the corporations' concerns rather than the concerns of the people.  Don't complain about the small percentage of people at the protests who are just along for the ride.  Hope instead, that the momentum will sweep them up and change them too.  Don't deride the people who are saying that we don't live in an oligarchy, but are demanding a return to democracy.  Don't look for reasons to hate, instead find ways to make  your voice heard.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Needful Things

How often do you picture yourself as the person you want to be, rather than the person you actually are.  Don't we all want to be the best we can be?  I know that I have a list of things I want to work on in myself.  Some are small, some are more than I think I can handle, but all of them are going to require daily effort.  And there is the problem.  I get lazy and find too many distractions and excuses.  I think we all do, but the most successful of us don't let the distractions and excuses get in the way of attaining our dreams.  

So, in a concerted effort to find some accountability (again), I want to list some of my goals, and keep a regular record of my efforts and my thoughts and feelings around my efforts.  Maybe I can get some encouragement and advice from people who have gone through the same challenges, or are currently going through them.  Maybe I can offer insight to people who are thinking and feeling the same things.  Maybe no one else will read this and it will be more a introspective for myself.  Either way, I think chronicling all of it will be helpful.

I want to start writing more, in order to gather my thoughts, to force me to think more critically and rationally, to express my opinions and thoughts on things that affect me and my world, to get feedback on these things that will force me to consider other perspectives.

I want to control my dietary habits, which are not as healthy as I want them to be.  I want to eat healthy, whole foods, fruits and vegetables and whole grains and responsibly raised meats.  I want to be more in control of what I put into my body.  Right now food is very much an addiction for me.  There isn't really a rehab for food addicts, and it isn't as if I can go cold turkey.  But I am exercising regularly and have lost nearly 100 pounds, and I want to lose 80 more, so diet control is very necessary.  I also have struggled with Type 2 diabetes, and am currently not taking medicine, and I don't want to go back to taking medicine, so I have GOT to get my eating under control.  I want my body to have the right fuel for the active healthy lifestyle I want to attain.

I want my exercise routine to be more consistent.  I want to go to the gym and do a weight circuit every other day and a cardio routine on the alternate days.  Losing weight is one of my most important goals, because of the lifestyle I want to live.  I want to be an active person.  I want to be able to try different activities, like skiing or snowboarding, or get back into horseback riding.  The point is, I want to be active, for the rest of my life and so need to maintain a regular exercise routine, so that I can be ready for any activity that comes my way.  

I want to reach out to other people, I want to gain friends and a community.  In the past I have not wanted to make the effort of maintaining friendships, but that is just laziness, and in truth I love people.  I need social connections, because I am a social person and thrive in social situations.  I have previously lacked confidence, because of my appearance mostly, but am growing out of that.  I want to put more effort into creating relationships with people.

I want to find a meaningful job.  I want more than to bring in an income, though that is very important since I currently have none.  I would like to work using my acting skills, or my voice, but don't really have the resources yet to submit demos to the right people.  I want to pursue it regardless.  

I want to learn German.  I want to stop being lazy about it and buckle down.

I want to get certified to teach English as a second language.  I don't have the resources right now to take the courses, but it is a goal nonetheless.

There are more things I want to work on, but they are goals with less priority.  Mostly I want to become a more active, more well rounded person.  I want to stop being lazy about life.  The word life implies activity and participation and I want to go for it.   

Monday, January 24, 2011

Life is good, no matter what, damnit

I don't think I am an optimist...rather I think I am just really stubborn.  My family jokes that we are know the sort of thing I am talking about.  Murphy's Law, but on a grand scale within my family.  Everything from the register at the grocery store never failing to break down when we are next in line, and have been there for the last 15 minutes...with our 4 items..., to bigger things like horrible health issues that go hand in hand with job losses and other gloom and doom that I won't bore...or perhaps titillate you with.

However, I am a firm believer that even in the face of almost constant struggle, life is full of joy.  Maybe not grand scale joys, but little things that can make us happy if we choose to let them.  I am at a crossroads currently, well, I am moving past the crossroad onto the path I chose.  My life is very fluid at the moment.  It is scary.  I am in a new city, among people I don't know, who speak a language I don't know either.  I left behind everyone and everything that I knew, because I was living miserably.  I chose to come here, and while it has been and still is sometimes scary and overwhelming in the hurdles I need to clamber over, I am still finding little things, daily to bolster my spirit. 

 I think this is something we HAVE to choose to do.  It isn't easy, ever to choose to look at things positively, to look for things to be joyful about, to choose to be grateful for life as it is.  There is the old adage that 'No one ever said life would be fair', and I think that is more than just fair as in justice, but fair as in sunny and sweet as well.  Life isn't just, or sunny, or swell all the time.  In fact most of the time, life is downright brutal.  People all have problems, sometimes some problems seem less than others, but that is like beauty being in the eye of the beholder, right? 

 I was walking beside the river this morning and was stopped by a few Jehovah's Witnesses, evangelizing in German.  When they realized I spoke English, they gave me their tract, written in English.  I took it and continued my walk.  On the front it said, "Does God care about us?  And if He does, then why do we suffer.  Will the suffering ever end."  Now, I am not going to get into a religious debate here and now, but I will take that statement about suffering and turn it over a time or two. 

 I think suffering is just part of life.  Without it, we don't grow, not in character, or spirit or in mind.  Without suffering, how do we know joy?  Wouldn't a life that held only joy, in effect devalue the meaning of joy?  How would we know it was joy without the presence of suffering and pain?  We wouldn't of course.  We can choose to accept suffering and make it into part of our joy and happiness.  We can choose to laugh even while we are depressed, we can choose to see beauty, even in the midst of darkness, we can choose to be grateful  for a dozen little things daily, even while life is assaulting us.  We still have worries and pain and suffering, but it doesn't have to consume us. 

 Life is good, life is grand, your life is YOURS, live it.  With passion, with joy, with a stubborn grateful zeal.  It is yours to live as you choose it.  Choose passion over pain and fight for it tooth and nail.