Tag Archives: empathy

On Life:

Hay all, going to put all the petty concerns away for a little bit today and ramble about the bigger things. So if you’re looking for my usual practical and pragmatic advice go read “On elected officials: Why we just cannot get it right…” again, cus what follows is more of a “if you don’t know, know you know” type thing.

 

Currently I have 33 continuous years of life racked up here on Earth, in that time I’ve come to strongly prefer people, opinions, situations ect. that respect life. Now I’ll freely admit my current living state may make me particular bias towards other living things, I’m spouting off how I feel today so a bit of biases will no doubt be in the mix. I’m not a fan of killing (though I support it indirectly all the time… (Taxes paid, food purchased ect..) It always seems so wasteful, especially when it comes to more complex organisms. That is not to say I give a free pass to the killing of “lower” organisms, plants should be entitled to live their plant lives, ants to do their ant thing ( IE take over Earth…) and so on. That is at least what I see as more ideal; letting life do what it wants to do… It’s a cool system we would be well served f-ing with as little as possible.

Humans (an area I have a special understanding of) tend to muck things up when it comes to life, when we are not killing each other en-mass, we regularly kill on small scale, both as indivual and societies. This may all be explained (and solved?) as our collective understanding of empathy ( and empathy gap) progress but when I look at the history of public execution, how violence is portrayed in media  and our infantile understanding of “Rights”…I’m not holding my breath.

How valuable is my life? I ask myself this fairly often, I know very well that my life is finite and try to be honest about what I think my life is worth. So far I’ve come up with a lot of different answers, mostly depending on what was going on in my life at the time. The most common answer (the one that came up this week and most) is “Very”, at least to me.  That said I do not consider it to be the end all be all of my existence, there are things that I would trade my life for, situations where I would (and have) risked it for something more valuable.

The personal value I place on my life is not the only measure thought, as a member of humanity my life also has value to the species (and if I’m going to look really far out, to all life in the cosmos). Now with the current state of humanity that value may be negative when looking from a cosmic perspective. Regardless life has value, it may be absolute (I don’t see it that way, but I also begrudge no one for fearing death, and acting like an asshat because of that). That is why I fall so strongly on the “let live things live” side of things, I value my life (as I think all humans on some level do).

Getting off the “Humans are everything” train, the value of life anywhere should be something we innately empathize with. From animals to bugs and bacteria, we can see parts of ourselves in them and should respect that as best we are able. Ownership when extended to live things is likely a bad idea, while I paid for him I do not “Own” pups, he’s a companion I try to be worthy of each day. ( Most day’s I’m not, but he’s super cool about it)

In the end we humans are all members of humanity (membership is mandatory^^), further as living beings we are all members of … something…   I long for a world where any human will always be happy to see another human, and by extension, where all humans are happy to see life, everywhere it exists, in all it’s forms. Where we abandon the death filled ways of the past and work only to understand life and through that understand ourselves. Once we show that minimal level of dedication to our condition, we can start interactions with intelligent life. (I think there’s a fundamental difference between life and matter, and it’s important to respect that. People who are forced (or by choice) to see life as means to an end are not their brother’s keeper, are being selfish and in need of an environment where they can learn to love.)

On contemporary humanity:

We’ve seen a lot in 2017 so far, from wars to Despacito, what a Trump presidency looks like to China pivoting to a leader in environmental regulation. We live in interesting and exciting times to be sure, but today’s post is going to be a downer, while there are countless positive things going on right now, and the overall course of human history is on path I ( generally) agree with, as the song goes: “There’s so much trouble in the world”…

The trouble of which I speak can be traced back to a basic lack of empathy, it’s expressed by selfishness, fear and anger (Humanity’s oldest frenemys). (While I have harped on this prior it bears repeating) Hunger and homelessness are at this point 100% caused by too many people sucking too hard at sharing. Now there is much that can be debated when trying to answer why that is the case, but my base assertion stands fairly strong: 2017 FAO report has food prices remaining flat for the next 10 years, we have complicity to feed everyone, we (humanity) have had this power for decades. Yet hunger remains a daily part of life for millions, we’ve made progress to be sure, but 1 involuntarily starving person is too many (and here’s why).

Let’s take all the geo-political bs out for a second and look at the problem via analogy: your next door neighbor is in a bad situation, their home was blown up when their meth lab blew. They have both an immediate need (for food and shelter) and a long term need (without the meth lab they have no income). You can ignore them, but it takes a truly evil person to watch a neighbor starve while enjoying an excess of food. SO you invite them in, and solve their acute need for food and shelter. However, wanting to protect your own house from ending in the same way as their old house, you prevent them from going back to their old job. As a compromise you offer them entry level work at your place of employment, the hrs. are long and pay is low, but it’s what you went through to get where you are and is the best you are willing to do. Eventually you ask your neighbor to start buying their own food and get their own place so they can go on with their lives.

That’s kind of the model the developed world has taken with the developing world, and on the surface it appears kind enough (you did not let them starve to death remember). But the devil is in the details, and there are lots of them when it comes to how the developed world “helps” developing nations. 1st the house did not really blow up in an explosion, but was blown up. (Indigenous peoples by and large produce their own food, it’s not until they switch to producing commercial crops that they find themselves relying on outside forces for food.)  2nd the time you let your neighbor live in your house and eat your food, they have to pay for that ( with interest): The developed world is not really interested in giving things away, even when those things are knowledge of how to feed people. Loans for infrastructure projects are expected to be paid back, and beyond the funding the World Bank has (in the past) required privatization of entire sectors of public works. Lastly, that entry level job you got them as their very own path to self-sufficiently, that just puts them working for the exact same people who blew up their home in the 1st place.

I ask this, imagine you are across a table from someone who has starved in a corner of the world you don’t care about. They see how you live, what you care about (and they know that it takes about 1-3$ a day to feed a person), do they have a right to be angry? As I see it, not only are we in the developed world hording all the stuff, all the knowledge of how to make and get stuff, we are also very slowly selling that knowledge as we figure out better stuff. We operate under the guise of “helping” but really it’s exploitation, of the developing world’s ignorance, natural resources and very people. What’s stopping every person with over $10k in the bank from donating everything else? It’s not desire to help I can tell you that.

And that leads us to why hunger will be solved, why at some point the only people who starve will be those who freely chose to: It offends a very basic sense of fairness to horde when there is need elsewhere, and while those without are ignorant of the fact they have only their suffering to motivate them, however when the millions of people that are starving now ( most children) get wise to the fact that the only reason they are starving is because most of the developed world is hyper greedy, they will be motivated to change that power structure… Very motivated.

And all of us in the developed world have no moral leg to stand on, we allow people to spend billions on yachts and get-aways that benefit an extremely select few. That kind of individual extravagance needs to be eliminated immediately, and can be re-introduced in a scaled down form when we solve hunger and housing. Right now we are being wasteful with stolen goods, and their owners may not be wise to the scam yet, but they will be soon enough.

Getting back to the topic, Humanity is not being good to itself, we are exploiting the week for the pleasure of the few. While I have deep moral objections to the practice, it’s on the grounds of basic self-preservation I implore us to cut it the fuck out: The people we exploit today will remember it tomorrow, the nation’s we bankrupt and rape of limited natural rescores will remember as well. There will come a time when those same people and nations are across a table from us, and we’ll need their help and when that time comes the outcome will hinge on whether exploitation is standard practice for all humanity ( like it is now) or if exploitation has been relegated to our dark past.

On GAAP

For those not in the know GAAP is known by some as generally accepted accounting principles, it’s basically the rules that public (and most private) companies use to report their financial data, and it’s use is required by law in most western countries (Europe uses IFRS) I’ll skip the specifics and just say GAAP is CRAP because of how it treats payroll.

According to GAAP payroll is an expense, the antithesis to profit, something to be minimized. While it is true that monies paid in payroll are not available for other uses by the business, they are in effect a part measure of how much that company is supporting the public good. While a board room may simile upon paying the least to people and maximizing their profits, that mentality is a force for inequality. How can businesses determine a fair rate of pay? Clearly there is not enough money to pay everyone CEO rates, how can we (more) fairly determine how much money a person gets?

Time! By and large we are all equal in the # of hours we have in a day. All non-government pay should be based on hrs. Service and little or nothing else. This ensures that the person in the mail room or the executives in the board room are on an even playing field. They both have 24 hrs. in a day, and should be compensated for the # they spend working.  Ideally, the hr. rate (how much money 1 hr. earns) would be level across all enterprises and industries, but (especially during the transition) indristires that the government would like more people in can have their hr. rate given a premium.  (NOTE: this is counter intuitive as a main advantage to the universal hr. rate would be compensation would NOT be a consideration in selection of work. People would work where they want to.)

Now to address the naysayers who would undoubtedly claim that the most skilled among us would not work (or at least not be utilized to their max benefit) in such a system. Good! Humanity as a whole has seldom if ever needed the best, the best is overrated, it’s costly, transient and on the whole hard to re-produce. We need good happy people doing good work. Anyone who’s main motivation is $$ will never do as good a job as someone who cares about what they are doing directly, not merely as a means to an end.

Getting back to GAAP, it’s an example of institutional, government required economic inequality. It is a set of rules that treat income as an externality, a cost, something to be minimized (and the people it applies to likewise marginalized). A better accounting system would require tracking the # of hours and how equitably the value earned from those hours are distributed in society. Instead we have GAAP, forcing all business to report payroll as a cost, with no mention of the hours involved. The human cost that each employee pays to keep the enterprise alive. Its codified repression, entrenched economic discrimination, part of the body of law that implies it’s ok to buy and sell people, as long as you call them “jobs”.