hopelessness

It’s a Feature, Not a Bug


Crime

Crime has been rising for several years, so it’s understandable that one year into the Biden presidency President Biden would be blamed for everything. That’s just how Republicans roll. But let’s set aside stupid talk about defunding the police, lousy administration job performance and the rest. Crime is a symptom, not a root cause. It isn’t a coordinated effort to keep cops employed or politicians’ hands wringing and fingers pointing, so let’s take a look at what might be driving crime.

Let’s start with two givens: first, I’m not an expert at this; second, while other kids are eager to grow up to be a fireman or doctor or a superhero, very few are eager to be criminals. There’s something that causes them to make that decision.

Try hopelessness. Try broken promises. Try the breakdown of families, perhaps broken by hopelessness and broken promises.

We swat at the symptoms, as though a crackdown will stop criminals and serve as an example and thereby prevent future crime. But if we are willing to ask how that’s working for us and we’re realistic, we’d have to answer that it’s not working too well.

What we are doing well is to provide our citizens with public examples of lawlessness and proud declarations of intent to break the law issued from the highest places. And we do next to nothing to create the things that would cause people to choose a life of non-crime. Let’s poke just a little at both pieces.

If you’re reading this (and obviously you are) you already know and have seen insurrection and lawbreaking on a breathtaking scale by elected leaders. Trump is the obvious and easy example, but we’ve locked up several from Congress in just the past few years for things like insider trading. The standard belief is that “They’re all crooks,” which may be a bit of overreach, but there is evidence to suggest that taking bribes, bent legislation that lines the wrong pockets and more is common. Clearly, that stuff happens at the local level, too, where we citizens have the most contact. That provides a not-so-fine example to follow, or at least a message that breaking the law is okay, that it’s just the way things work.

As for hopelessness, how do you think we’re doing at ensuring our people that there are prospects for economic security, a chance for a better tomorrow? We watched and even encouraged manufacturing jobs to go overseas, leaving thousands of towns and millions of people suddenly unemployed or under-employed. Politicians have given lip service to bringing those factories and those jobs back, but it’s been nothing more than hot air for decades.

They also give lip service to better education. Then they kill every attempt to make that happen, especially in poor areas. See “broken promises” above.

Said an unidentified woman participating in a focus group detailed in the New York Times,

” .  .  .  they’re not giving me any sort of ambition to feel like I have any sort of trust in the government to fix things or at least get the ball going in the right direction.”

It’s unlikely that she is prone to committing a crime, but she articulates well our general level of confidence in our self-paralyzing government. Worse, in Flint, MI government officials saved a few bucks or made them for donors by poisoning children with lead in the water. They weren’t alone in that and other nefarious behavior.

Our cities offer little hope for anything better for many of our fellow citizens, which leaves a lot of people with pockets full of empty. Answer for yourself what you would do in such circumstances. Answer for yourself what your level of anger would be – maybe substitute the word “rage.” A drive-by shooting just might help anyone to feel powerful and in control, if only for a moment. And cash stolen from an ATM or convenience store would ease economic woes a bit. Doing the robbery might even feel justifiable.

As I said, I’m no expert at this, but our national hand-wringing and political posturing don’t help a thing, and making the police force of any city the equivalent to the army of a small nation will make for yet more brutality and no progress. What if we were actually to address the root causes? What if we were to stop the hypocritical posturing about education and actually educate all of our kids well?

I’m guessing that there are experts who can tell us what to do to reduce crime. If a miracle happens and somebody in authority actually seeks such counsel, my confidence is high that we won’t pay any attention to that expert advice and that nothing will get better. That’s what we’ve always done.

What we can count on is that right wing politicians will continue using crime statistics to denigrate others and to promote themselves and their chest-thumping, faux virtuous righteousness. They’ll find more ways to blabber about freedom and responsibility. They need that cudgel for political gain, so they’ll steadfastly refuse to take action to open possibilities for those who need them most.

It’s the same logic that causes politicians to obstruct actions to mitigate the pandemic. It’s in Republicans’ interest to keep the suffering and death going, because that gives them both an ongoing pandemic and inflation as issues to use to beat on Democrats. They’d rather that people suffer and die than do anything to help. And review that focus group woman’s comment once again.

Then read Andrew Yang’s essay, The Data Are Clear: The Boys Are Not Alright. The facts and the numbers are shocking.

The design of our system creates these circumstances, which is why I say that crime is a feature, not a bug.

Death

Each is a lethal dose

Congratulations to us on our consistency. We have over 100,000 deaths from drug overdose every year – more than vehicle crashes and gun deaths combined. That number is sufficient to include someone not far from you, although, to be fair, there is a much higher concentration of overdose death in poor areas, like Appalachia, the slums of our cities and on Native American reservations. (How come we took the best land and “reserved” the worst land for them until we wanted that land and then “reserved” still worse land for them?)

Could it be that hopelessness to the point of complete resignation is involved? So, how come we don’t do anything about that hopelessness?

Oh yeah – out of sight, out of mind. Bootstraps demands. Self-induced Myopia. Those people are worth more to the suppliers hooked until they OD than alive and clean. Just ask the Sackler family of Purdue Pharmaceutical and the doctors who got kickbacks from them.*

Looks like our death from overdose is a feature, not a bug, too.

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* Read Barry Meier’s piece, Origins of an Epidemic: Purdue Pharma Knew Its Opioids Were Widely Abused, as well as German Lopez’s piece A Rising Death Toll, from which the chart below is taken.

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The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. There are lots of smart, well-informed people. Sometimes we agree; sometimes we don’t. Search for others’ views and decide for yourself.
  3. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.
  5. Book links to Amazon are provided for reference only. Please purchase your books through your local mom & pop bookstore. Keep them and your town vibrant.

JA


Copyright 2022 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Root Causes


Regular readers will likely recognize that over the years I have tried to understand why citizens on the far right portion of our politics consistently vote against their own interests. I’ve dabbled in guessing why they’re willing to believe fantastical fantasies and why they are so violent in spirit and in actions. Perhaps most important, I’ve scrambled for a foothold of understanding of why they gladly do unpatriotic things, yet consider themselves patriots. I think I’m coming to a more complete answer. Let’s start with a little walk through history.

Seattle Hooverville, 1932

Republican Herbert Hoover was elected in 1928. He had been a mining engineer, a business oriented fellow. Eight months after he took office the economy began its greatest crash and Hoover sat on his hands and watched as the savings from lifetimes of work evaporated and 25% of Americans wanting work were out of work. Their families were in terrible distress. Hoover told Americans to carry on, that things would get better, but in his complete absence of vision he did nothing to help, which led to Hoovervilles all across the country. By 1932 things had become far worse. That’s when ordinary Americans decided that a wealthy patrician understood them and their challenges better than the Republicans did and they elected Democrat FDR to be president. It turned out that they were right.

FDR invented the WPA and the CCC and mounted massive infrastructure projects like the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Hoover Dam that brought electricity to millions of people. More important than that, those projects brought honest work and good pay to Americans, which brought with it the dignity of being able to care for one’s family and oneself. FDR was so popular that he was elected to the presidency four times, with his last victory coming even as the nation knew he was dying. He was that popular.

And that’s why Republicans hated him and his projects that put Americans back to work. They have been trying to kill all social and commons programs since then. And preventing that kind of success for Americans is exactly why today’s Republicans want Joe Biden to fail.

Several Republican presidents wanted to get Social Security privatized to benefit fat cats, like the ones who brought us the Great Depression and the Great Recession. When President Johnson created Medicare, Medicaid and his Great Society Program, Republicans were apoplectic and they have tried to kill all of those programs, too. I don’t know what they want to do about President Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway System – maybe they want to privatize them and let the fat cats charge tolls. Here’s the thing:

Republicans hate anything that smacks of work done in the commons and things that directly benefit the people. But the people love that stuff. And people become very angry and feel betrayed when things they’ve counted on are taken away. Think about what Republicans have to do, then, to get elected.

That’s right: they lie.

Reagan told lies about non-existent Black welfare queens living like actual queens. He told of “young bucks” – his term – meaning young Black men scamming the welfare system. His doing that makes sense, because it appealed to White fear, which brought him support. Bear in mind that Reagan opposed not just welfare, but also the Brown v. Board of Education decision. How convenient it was for him to latch onto welfare lies and appeal to White supremacy, not bothering to mention that the majority of welfare recipients were White. He just threw out hateful dog whistles that appealed to the fearful and the haters.

Then he stoked distrust and hatred of government itself, even as he was leading the government. He told Americans that, “Government isn’t the solution to the problem; government is the problem.” It was a new verbalization of opposition to all social programs. Surely, we wouldn’t want to support anything that helps those lazy, shiftless “others,” right?

As I said: lies.

Bush II was a lie spewing machine, corrupting the Constitution every day and calling it patriotism. And the patriotic thing played well. He told us, “You’re either with us or you’re against us,” and Americans lined up, not wanting to be left behind and thought of as unpatriotic. Republicans are still playing that card. They do that even as they ended programs that would help Americans.

Manufacturing jobs were shipped overseas and citizens were left with nothing. They were betrayed by their own government. (Full disclosure: Clinton was complicit in that.) They call that patriotism and rugged individualism, “right sizing” and freedom and a lot of other fine sounding names. They use their superb propaganda machine to get people to believe their fantasy, just like a circus sideshow barker. It turn out they really can fool some of the people all of the time, even as they are being betrayed.

All the propaganda and all the betrayal has stoked the anger of the people. Plus, it’s plain that Whites will no longer be a majority in this country in just a couple of decades, so Whites fear their hands will slip from the reins of power. The knowledge of that has brought more levers for Republicans to manipulate the people, like gerrymandering, the filibuster and voter suppression.

People are left in quite a confusing and simplistic mess.

Their anger is so great that they’d rather infect and kill their loved ones and die themselves, than follow simple government health guidelines crafted by doctors and scientists.

They’re so blinded by their distrust of government that they believe conspiracies too loony even for a cartoon and they agitate for autocracy that would make them serfs to the ultra-wealthy.

Their sense of betrayal is so overpowering that they refuse simple and obvious realities and reject as cheating anything that doesn’t go their way.

Their fear and anger are so great that they metaphorically have a middle finger extended at all times just to feel powerful.

All of that is orchestrated and overheated by big money puppet masters who manipulate fears and anger, so that the people blindly follow leaders and a party that literally have no policies other than to obstruct and disempower everyone but themselves.

So, the people cheer and send contributions to politicians who stand against the very things that would help the people, like the infrastructure bill and the good jobs that will bring; like voting rights, gun safety, reasonable cost pharmaceuticals, child care, medical insurance and broadband. With every vote or obstruction to voting on those issues and with every manufactured barrier to voting and with every appeal to fear and anger, the manipulators appeal for donations to Trump-fearing GOP sycophants in congress and in the states and municipalities. Those dollars are then used to further diminish the future of the voters and the voters’ children.

But the people don’t see that, because they are so angry. Worse, they don’t realize they’ve been hoodwinked for generations. And that is why our citizens on the far right of the political spectrum consistently and unknowingly vote against their own interests, leaving them nothing but their rage and whatever weapons they own in order to feel powerful and in control of themselves.

It’s all about anger, fear and hopelessness and how easy it is to manipulate people who feel that way.
.

Do you doubt that? Watch Adam Kinzinger’s short video and his appeal for Country First.

A Tale of 4s In 2021

Unemployment dropped from 6.2% to 4.2%.

– Wages rose approximately 4% – the final annual numbers aren’t in yet.

– The economy is so strong that there are 4 million more job openings than Americans seeking employment.

– We added 4.6 million jobs. Or is it 6.2 million? Not sure, but it’s a good number.

Republicans, please stop telling Americans how awful our economy is and how the Democrats are ruining it, because that’s just another Republican lie.

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The days are dwindling for us to take action. Get up! Do something to make things better.

Did someone forward this to you? Welcome! Please subscribe – use the simple form above on the right. And pass this along to three others, encouraging them to subscribe, too. (IT’S A FREEBIE!)

And add your comments below to help us all to be better informed.

Thanks!

The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. There are lots of smart, well-informed people. Sometimes we agree; sometimes we don’t. Search for others’ views and decide for yourself.
  3. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.
  5. Book links to Amazon are provided for reference only. Please purchase your books through your local mom & pop bookstore. Keep them and your town vibrant.

JA


Copyright 2022 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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