The Collapse of the Great Society

I lived through this, in the Seventies – and never noticed it happening!

This was the era of LBJ – who was responsible for Civil Rights in the South, an amazing accomplishment – and the Vietnam War, another amazing accomplishment, of the opposite kind.

We saw the Civil Rights disturbances, and the Vietnam War protests – without understanding what was going on. The final collapse of Enlightenment hopes for a better world.

This was such a huge disappointment, we could not believe it was happening – and still cannot believe it. We keep telling each other “We are going to come out of this!” But we never do. Building a better society is a far more difficult task, than we ever imagined.

And we have never been able to recognize this – a simple fact, that we cannot recognize.

Beneath a Scarlet Sky

I am listening to this audio book, with my Amazon Fire tablet – and enjoying it immensely. The title is misleading – it is about the adventures of a 17-year old boy in WWII, in Italy. Who went through more than any boy should of.

The Italians made the huge mistake of following Benito Mussolini (as some American poets did, also). Some of them, however formed a resistance movement, that has been forgotten – by everyone, including the Italians – and this book tries to revive this history.

What is the Place of Man in the World?

The usual reply to this question is “I don’t want to think about it!” The person making this reply, is stating that the proper response to this question, is to deny his responsibility to respond to it.

This is a strange situation for the descendents of the Reformation – who considered this question essential, and responded to it, in great detail.

Something happened to them, that changed them fundamentally – what was it?

Whatever it was, it happened in the 19th Century. And the likely culprit was Industrialization. A huge event so comprehensive it, almost defies our understanding of it.

But its results were easy to see – the American Civil War, WWI, the Depression, and WWII (with its Holocaust). A series of huge disasters.

Instead of analyzing this (as many people have done) I will point to my hometown of Ft. Madison, Iowa, in the Fifties. It was an Industrial town, with the Santa Fe Railroad on the West End of town – and the Sheaffer Pen Company on the East End.

It was typical of the Industrial Midwest – the huge area that produced most of the world’s products. Which is now part of the Rust Belt – where nothing is produced, and from which – ambitious young people, such as myself, fled.

The people still there, have no idea what happened to them. They only know, whatever it was – it was bad, and was somehow the result of mistakes they made – that they don’t want to know about.

Their solution (their reaction to this) was simple – destroy everything!

And they have elected Trump, to do this for them.

The Rise of the Organization

Back in the 19th Century, or perhaps even earlier, we should have been planning our future. There was plenty of political turmoil over the nations, and the empires, that were forming – but the net result was WWI, the Depression, and WWII. We had failed, and failed miserably.

There was some planning for a new world, with the United Nations, and the World Bank. And there were no more World wars – just small ones, such as the Korean War, and then the Vietnam War.

But something much bigger was going on – the rise of The Organization. That no one took much notice of. But everyone knew was big, and getting even bigger.

Instead of thinking about this, and its implications – we just let it take over. Because, we thought – it would make us more powerful! 

Which it did – The Organization became more powerful – but people became less powerful. A very serious development – but one people took no notice of – and continue to take no notice of.

Society became obsessed with this new kind of power – and obsessed with protecting it from its detractors – who noticed what was going on. These people had to be destroyed!

This is what was happening in The Office – where everyone was working. It was making The Organization more powerful – and its detractors less powerful – and hopefully, eliminated altogether.

This new economy was successful, from the end of WWII to the Seventies – when it failed. Its focus was too narrow – and it could not understand the world, as a whole.

This failure was very complex, and depended on many factors. For me, it ended my career as an Electronic Engineer. I was an expert on the Vacuum Tube – and this was replaced by the Transistor – and even more importantly, the Computer.

That no one understood, at the time – but knew it was big –  and getting bigger.

This was the Economy I was involved in, in the Eighties and the Nineties – an Industrial Economy, that was fading – and Computer Economy, that was growing. A very painful time, that I managed to survive, by getting out of it – and moving to Costa Rica.

The conflicts here were noticed – by the more sensitive souls, who were afraid of saying anything. I have a cousin, who got out of the Office by becoming a surveyor. And other relatives who developed their own strategies for coping with this – not realizing this was what they were doing.

I can say this now, wearing my pyjamas, sitting in front of my laptop, with a fast Internet connection. I can say what I please in this blog – knowing I will not be shot down – and also knowing it will make little difference.

The Cold War

The Cold war was a competition between two economies – and Soviet Union, and the USA. Each tried to outspend the other – primarily on munitions.

I was an Electronic Engineer then, and I made a lot of money off that war, with the exotic Radars we had, to detect Soviet bombers armed with nuclear bombs.

The Soviets had no such bombers – but we did, ready to take off on a minutes notice. The crews slept right next to their bombers – and they were programed to bomb a number of targets, in succession. The crews knew they were unlikely to survive one of these missions – but they were going to go, anyway.

The amount spent on one bomber, and its bombs – was unbelievable. But we had plenty of money then – and we were pretty sure the Soviets didn’t.

From Working to Being Entertained

This is one of the big changes that happened in the last half of the last century – when nearly everything changed – with few noticing it.

I can see this most clearly in the young – those born during this period – often referred to as the Millennials. They will not work (they don’t even know how to) or, if they do, they expect fast results for little work.

Sometimes they join a union, because work as a plumber, for example – is so easy, and the pay is so good!

Or, in the software industry, they expect fast money – just by being in the right place at the right time, with the right story.

Their formative experience was Television, that appeared in the Fifties – and changed them completely. Their reality was the magic screen – the same as in the Movies, and later in the Computer. It gave them everything they wanted – at the touch of a finger!

Their parents were workers, of all kinds – blue collar, and white collar. They didn’t mind working – in fact, they enjoyed it.

They don’t understand their children – and don’t make much of an effort at trying to.

Human Rights are Now a Strange Idea

Tenants Under Siege: Inside New York City’s Housing Crisis

Human Rights were invented as part of the Enlightenment – and were part of the American Declaration of Independence – written by Thomas Jefferson himself, using a quill pen. Quoting directly from John Locke.

It was self-evident, it declared, that people were endowed with certain unalienable rights. This overlooked slaves – which Jefferson had and even had sexual relationships with one of them. Which was not considered unusual for its time and place.

Fast-forward to the 21st Century – where it is clear, from the link at the top of the page – that these have been forgotten, and not even mentioned, in the confrontations it describes.

This was a problem immigrants always faced – and still face. One of the huge problems of our time – how to provide for immigrants?

My hometown of Nauvoo, Illinois, was settled by German immigrants in the 1860s – who build successful fruit farms here – mostly vineyards, that grew table grapes that were shipped to Chicago, St. Louis, and Kansas City, on the Railroads.

By the Fifties, when my family arrived, there were still many small businessmen, and family farms. But by the Sixties, these were gone.

The loss of respectable, independent jobs was enormous. I went to college, and became an Electronic Engineer – but there were not many engineering jobs – compared to the agricultural jobs previously.

This trend continues – there are not many Computer jobs compared to the Manufacturing jobs of the 20th Century.

This leaves the many, many Homeless – as we now call them. They are not all technologically obsolescent – some of them are just poor, for many other reasons.

But in any case – they have no rights.