Article 43


Sunday, September 05, 2004


Welcome to - a memorial to the layed off workers of (PRE SBC MERGER) AT&T, and the disappearing MIDDLE CLASS citizens of America.  It is NOT endorsed or affiliated with AT&T or the CWA in any way.

This sticky post was written the day we appeared on the internet in 2004.

In addition to INFORMATION, resources and opinion for former AT&T workers DEALING WITH the EFFECTS OF LAYOFF and looking for meaningful employment, some articles here are meant to bring into awareness the LARGER PICTURE of corporate dominance of the UNITED STATES’ political and economic policies which brazenly DISREGARDS, disrespects and EXPLOITS worker, citizen and HUMAN RIGHTS under masks like FREE TRADE and the PATRIOT ACT - resulting in a return to a society of very rich and very poor dominated by a few very rich and powerful - whose voices are anything but - for the people. If left UNCHALLENGED, the self-serving interests of those in control may result in the end of DEMOCRACY, the end of the middle class, irreversible ENVIRONMENTAL damage to the planet, and widespread global poverty brought on by exploitation and supression of the voices of common people EVERYWHERE, while the United States turns into a REINCARNATION of the ROMAN EMPIRE.  Author Thom Hartmann shares some history and outlines some basic steps to return our country to “The People” in his two articles TEN STEPS TO RETURN TO DEMOCRACY and SAVING THE MIDDLE CLASS. I support CERNIG’S idea for a new POLITICAL MOVEMENT - if not a revolution to cleanse our country of the filth ruling it - as we EVOLVE into a GLOBAL community - assuming we learn the THE LESSONS OF OUR TIME and don’t DESTROY CIVILIZATION first.

Everything here can be viewed anonymously.  Inserting or commenting on articles requires a free user account (for former AT&T employees with a real, non throw-away, email address.) Requests to the new user registration page are redirected to BLOGGED DOT COM’S site because most new signups I get are from COMMENT SPAMMERS and their ilk, so if you want to contribute, contact me through email, phone, or some other way.

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Per U.S.C. COPYRIGHT LAW - TITLE 17, SECTION 107, this not-for-profit site may reproduce copyrighted material not specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Such articles will either have a web link to the source, home page, and/or show credit to the author.  If yours is here and you have a problem with that, send me an EMAIL, and I’ll take it off. Stuff I wrote carries a CREATIVE COMMONS LICENSE permitting non-commercial sharing. In addition, this site’s owner forbids insertion and injecting data of any kind - especially advertisements - into ours by any person or entity.  Should you see a commercial ad that looks like it’s from here, please report it by sending me a tcpdump and/or screenshot in an EMAIL, then READ UP about how the PARTNERING OF INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDERS and companies like NEBUAD are DESTROYING INTERNET PRIVACY

Resumes of layed off AT&T workers are posted for free HERE.

Information on the Pension Class Action Lawsuit against AT&T is HERE.  More pension-related articles are HERE.

Links to some Telecom companies’ career pages are HERE.

Click HERE to learn a little about Article 43 and why I loathe the CWA.
Click HERE or HERE to learn what the CWA did when given a chance to do the right thing.
Click HERE for a glimpse of undemocratic and hypocritical CWA practices.
Click HERE for an article on Corporate Unionism.
Click HERE for an article of AFL-CIO’s undemocratic history.

If you’re looking for telco nostalgia, you won’t find it here.  Check out THE CENTRAL OFFICE, BELL SYSTEM MEMORIAL, MUSEUM OF COMMUNICATIONS, TELEPHONE TRIBUTE, and THE READING WORKS websites instead.

This site can disappear anytime if I run out of money to pay for luxuries like food, health care, or internet service.

Discernment of truth is left to the reader - whose encouraged to seek as much information as possible, from as many different sources as possible - and pass them through his/her own filters - before believing anything.

...the Devil is just one man with a plan, but evil, true evil, is a collaboration of men…
- Fox Mulder, X Files

No matter how big the lie; repeat it often enough and the masses will regard it as the truth.
- John F. Kennedy

Today my country, your country and the Earth face a corporate holocaust against human and Earthly rights. I call their efforts a holocaust because when giant corporations wield human rights backed by constitutions and the law (and therefore enforced by police, the courts, and armed forces) and sanctioned by cultural norms, the rights of people, other species and the Earth are annihilated.
- Richard L. Grossman

Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.
- Albert Einstein

He who is not angry when there is just cause for anger is immoral. Why? Because anger looks to the good of justice. And if you can live amid injustice without anger, you are immoral as well as unjust.
- Aquinas

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.
- Bishop Desmond Tutu

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
- Martin Luther King Jr

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
- Benjamin Franklin

If we do not hang together, we will surely hang separately.
- Benjamin Franklin

We must be prepared to make heroic sacrifices for the cause of peace that we make ungrudgingly for the cause of war.
- Albert Einstein

Solidarity has always been key to political and economic advance by working families, and it is key to mastering the politics of globalization.
- Thomas Palley

Update 8/11/07 - As we head into the next depression, fueled by selfish corporate greed, and a corrupt, SOCIOPATHIC US government, MIKE WHITNEY has a solution that makes a lot of sense to me:

The impending credit crisis cant be avoided, but it could be mitigated by taking radical steps to soften the blow. Emergency changes to the federal tax code could put more money in the hands of maxed-out consumers and keep the economy sputtering along while efforts are made to curtail the ruinous trade deficit. We should eliminate the Social Security tax for any couple making under $60, 000 per year and restore the 1953 tax-brackets for Americans highest earners so that the upper 1%-- who have benefited the most from the years of prosperity---will be required to pay 93% of all earnings above the first $1 million income. At the same time, corporate profits should be taxed at a flat 35%, while capital gains should be locked in at 35%. No loopholes. No exceptions.

Congress should initiate a program of incentives for reopening American factories and provide generous sufbsidies to rebuild US manufacturing. The emphasis should be on reestablishing a competitive market for US exports while developing the new technologies which will address the imminent problems of environmental degradation, global warming, peak oil, overpopulation, resource scarcity, disease and food production. Off-shoring of American jobs should be penalized by tariffs levied against the offending industries.

The oil and natural gas industries should be nationalized with the profits earmarked for vocational training, free college tuition, universal health care and improvements to then nations infrastructure.

Posted by Admin on 09/05/04 •

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Thursday, August 15, 2019

Legalized Extortion

image: Uninsured

“Obamacare, which should more correctly be called by its secret Corporate name, Baucus-care, makes 30 million people buy private health insurance, a near-worthless middleman racket that produces nothing, but is an exquisite parasite that does intrude to the max between doctor and patient for the sole purpose of extracting profit. And taxpayers have to pay for all those who can’t.”
- Op-Ed News - July 2012

No matter how worthless and expensive it may be with high deductables, copays and premiums - it may be cheaper to have insurance than not.

But, it’s not a good thing.

Is the restaurant owner who pays the mob for PROTECTION, better off paying them or not?  Sure he won’t get his legs cut off - or business burned down - that’s why he pays.

I kinda pay the insurance company for protection too - protection from unbelievably unaffordable healthcare.

Doctors make deals with insurance companies to be IN-NETWORK - meaning they charge the insurance company a lot less.

Patients make deals with the same insurance companies for access to these in-network doctors and cheap prices.

Regardless how watered down and useless the insurance coverage may be - just by paying these crooks middlemen, and going to an in-network doctor - you get the bargained for price, even if the insurance company pays zero (thanks to that big, fat yearly deductable) for that claim.

Then there was the day I though I had pneumonia. 

Lucky me only had to pay the in-network price for the doctor who treated my flu, but it got worse and I though I was dying, so decided to go a hospital.

Until I called the insurance company to get an idea how much it’ll cost me.

The agent said unless the hospital says it’s a “life threatening emergency,” they’ll deny all claims.

An emergency room visit, x-rays, tests, etc - can cost thousands - and if they find nothing that’ll kill me - means I gotta pay these crooks, expensive doctors

If I were to roll the dice and take a chance - make sure to drive to the hospital myself - because an ambulance is considered TRANSPORTATION - a charge that may not be covered at all. 

So much for having one of the signs of an impending hear attack, and told to call 911 immediately.


The charge just to walk in a hospital is astronomical.

If I don’t have a heart attack now, I certainly will when the hospital bill comes in.

Even with an in-network discount.

This is worse than legalized extortion.

At least if I pay the mob not to burn down my business - they won’t.

If our doctors would wise up and give the discounts to us instead of the insurance companies - maybe I would have went to the hospital - instead of spending two agonizing months on the couch throwing up.

What else happened during those two months?

The city almost took away my house because I was too sick to get out of bed to cut the grass.

$250/day fine because they said it was getting to high.

Looks like I’m not the only one getting hit with fines for that.... while our roads and bridges are COLLAPSING.


The Grass Gestapo Is Out of Control: 30K in Fines and Potential Foreclosure for a Too-Long Lawn

By Dagney Talbert
The Organic Prepper
August 12, 2019

A few weeks ago, I noticed a woman standing in my neighbor’s yard doing something I thought was pretty damn strange: she was measuring blades of grass with a tape measure.

Then I noticed the city truck parked on the street.

Turns out, the woman was with codes compliance or whatever they call it, apparently, her job is to drive around looking for reasons to harass and extort people for things like tall grass.

When I realized who she was and what she was doing, my next thoughts were “Are there not real problems in this city that need attention? There are people who drive around and measure grass for a living? And these employees are paid with taxpayer money to extort taxpayers?”

It isn’t like there aren’t real problems in this city. Like most regions in the US, there are things like potholes, traffic light outages, crime, and other random issues that, to a logical thinker, seem more pressing than the height of residents’ lawns.

Since when did having tall grass become a crime?

In many parts of the United States, allowing your grass to reach a certain height will lead to an unpleasant visit from the Grass Gestapo. I know, because it happened to me a few days after I spotted the Lawn Police measuring my neighbors grass. We were the lucky recipients of a letter informing us that OUR grass was too tall and that if we didn’t address the violation there would be consequences.

So, we mowed the grass and thought the issue was resolved.

A few weeks later, we got another letter from the city. Apparently, we are now on some kind of lawn maintenance watch list.

Here is an excerpt from the second letter. I have added my own observations and commentary (the parts in bold and italics):

An inspection of the above described property (so much for private property pretty sure this is trespassing) was conducted and the following violation of the [redacted for privacy] municipal code was observed:

On 06/25/2019 you were sent a letter stating the following violation. Once again on 07/23/2019 I inspected your property and the grass and weeds were again exceeding the allowed 7 inches. (Again, this woman admits she trespassed on our property)


All premises and exterior property shall be maintained free from weeds or plant growth in excess of 7 inches in height. All noxious weeds shall be prohibited. Weeds shall be defined as all grasses, annual plants, and vegetation, other than trees or shrubs provided; however, this term shall not include cultivated flowers and gardens. (Now every property owner is expected to be able to identify noxious weeds and other plants? I’m surprised the city hasn’t hired botanists to come out to identify each and every piece of vegetation on every yard and fine us per plant.)

Any owner of agent having charge of a property who fails to cut and destroy weeds after service of a notice violation, they shall be subject to prosecution in accordance with (code redacted) and as prescribed by the authority having jurisdiction. Upon failure to comply with the notice of violation, any duly authorized employee of the City or contractor hired by the City shall be authorized to enter upon the property that is in violation and cut and destroy the weeds growing thereon, and the costs of such removal shall be paid by the owner or agent responsible for the property. (Translated: We will trespass on “your property” whenever we want, and there is nothing you can do about it.)

Also in accordance with state statutes (redacted for privacy), if weeds are allowed to grow on the same property in violation of (code redacted) more than once during the same growing season, no additional notification is Department of Planning and Community Development required and the weeds will be cut by a contractor employed by the City with the cost thereof placed as an additional special tax on the property if it is not paid within 30 days of receiving invoice.

Additionally, if it is determined that compliance is not met, a citation may be issued in the (redacted) court which will require an appearance in Court and may include a fine of up to $1000 per day (What the heck?) that the violation is allowed to occur. (This is extortion. What if a property owner is disabled or injured and can’t afford to hire lawn service? What if they are in the hospital? What if they just happen to like tall grass?)

The letter included copies of photos the Grass Police took of our yard.

A man may lose his home due to the height of his grass.

While some people might think “Well, just cut your grass regularly and the government will leave you alone,"it isn’t always that simple.

Jim Ficken knows this all too well.

The city of Dunedin, Florida, is trying to steal his home because the grass was too tall.

THE INSTITUTE FOR JUSTICE (IJ) - known as the National Law “Firm for Liberty” is helping Ficken fight the government in court.

Here is a summary of the case:

In May 2018, Jim left his home in Dunedin, a Tampa Bay suburb, to go to South Carolina to work on settling his late mother’s affairs. While Jim was out of town, the man he paid to cut his lawn unexpectedly died. Grass grows quickly in Florida, and the lawn soon grew longer than the ten inches allowed by the city. The city immediately began fining Jim, having classified him as a “repeat offender” because of a warning he got back in 2015. Jim finally found out he was being fined when a code inspector told him he would be getting a “big bill.” Jim then immediately cut the grass, figuring he would be fined no more than a few hundred dollars.

It was $500 per day - the same as the fine for driving 50 mph in a school zone. And the city assessed it every day for over 57 days. With fees loaded on top, the total fine was nearly $29,000. That’s not the kind of money Jim has lying around. He begged the city to reconsider - to fine him something fair - but the city refused.

Come February, it was time to pay up. The city gave him 15 days to come up with $29,000, otherwise the city was going to get its money another way: by foreclosing on his home. And on May 7, thats just what the city voted to do. (SOURCE)

Ficken is not the only American who is being subjected to this kind of treatment, IJ goes on to EXPLAIN:

No one should lose their home because they let their grass grow too long. In February 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that governments cannot impose excessive fines. And losing your home because the grass was too long is excessive. Jim is nearly 70 and on a limited income. Fining him $29,000 is outrageous. And its part of a wider trend: all over America, local governments are padding their budgets by assessing crippling fines on their own residents.

That’s why Jim and the Institute for Justice are fighting back in court. It’s not just about Jim’s home in Dunedin, Florida. Its about ensuring - for everyonethat abusive governments can’t trump the Constitution. (SOURCE)

Ficken filed a lawsuit against Dunedin and members of its Code Enforcement Board. Hes seeking $1 in nominal damages, attorneys fees, and injunctions that would relieve him of the fines. The suit also hopes to end Dunedin’s practice of fining people without considering a homeowner’s ability to pay.

“The City had the authority to mow Jim’s grass and send him a reasonable bill,” the filing points out. Upon information and belief, the City did not do so because it prioritizes revenue over code compliance.

Some might think cities are justified in fining people who do not maintain their lawns. But if one is concerned about the appearance of a neighbor;s yard (property values and all that), why not go over and offer to mow the grass yourself? That seems like a neighborly thing to do, doesn’t it?

Is a $29,000 fine - or a person losing their home - proportional to having tall grass for a few weeks?

Does this sound like something that should happen in a free country?

Fining people $500 a DAY is unconscionable and frankly, downright cruel.

People are outraged over how governments are treating property owners.

Thankfully, Fricken’s story has received a lot of attention, and a lot of people are angry about how the city is treating him.

In May, IT WAS REPORTED that the mayor of Dunedin and other city officials received multiple threats of violence in response to the case.

The Pinellas County Sheriffs Office is now investigating after the mayor of Dunedin and other city officials received multiple threats of violence in response to a viral story about a citizen being fined nearly $30,000 for not cutting his grass, according to Dunedin City Manager Jennifer Bramley.

People from across the country unleashed their anger on the city of Dunedin by phone and by email this week.

“This is repeat violations.” There were 15 of them and we intervened on behalf of the neighborhood. We are not putting him out on the street without a home. He has 4 homes,” Bramley said.

Bramley is speaking out on behalf of Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski who has been the target of threatening phone calls to her home. The person on the other end threatened harm to the mayor and her family.

“There have been threats to the code enforcement board, the code enforcement division, to city hall, the city managers office. Physical threats,” Bramley said.

One emailer wrote: “I hope someone burns your city hall to the ground.”

“We’re going to come down there and visit you, a whole bunch of us,” someone said in a voicemail.

Bramley says some workers are concerned.

“A lot of our employees are frightened to come to work,” Bramley said. (SOURCE)

A few weeks after the city reported it was receiving threats, THIS STORY broke:

The city of Dunedin has hired a crisis PR firm after coming under fire from the public for moving to foreclose on a homeowner who could not pay nearly $30,000 in fines for tall grass.

I-Team Investigator Kylie McGivern found a month-long city contract with the firm, Sachs Media Group, will cost taxpayers $25,000. (SOURCE)

Let’s get this straight: the city is threatening to take a man’s home because his grass was tall. The city faces public scrutiny and backlash for its actions. The city then adds insult to injury by spending $25,000 in taxpayer money to try to save face.

Have we reached peak government stupidity yet?

Ron Sachs, CEO of Sachs Media Group, told the I-TEAM the following:

The cityӒs doing its job the way its supposed to do. And itҒs making sure your neighborhood is protected and your community quality of life is protected, and the reason theyve asked for our help is to help them message most effectively the facts and the truth, because some news organizations are not fully and fairly reporting this story.Ҕ

Sachs called Ficken, a chronic scofflaw, who ignores code enforcement notifications and has enjoyed being a scofflaw, being a bad neighbor who doesn’t even live in the home in question. (SOURCE)

Ari Bargil, Ficken’s attorney, DEFENDED HIS CLIENT:

Jim lives in the property, he’s been living there for years. So the extent that the city is suggesting otherwise, its just untrue. With respect to previous code violations, I think the city’s putting a really colorful gloss on what actually happened. In every instance in which Jim has received a notice to correct any sort of alleged violation on his property, hes done it. He was never fined once by the city. HeҒs been compliant every single time. This is the first time theyve ever fined him and they decided that they were going to go nuclear,Ҕ said Bargil. (SOURCE)

John Stossel spoke with Ficken and Bargil. See the YouTube video HERE.

Governments imposing excessive fines is a widespread problem.

I have yet to figure out who exactly is harmed by tall grass, but it isnt the only petty offense that governments are fining people for.

Slapping unsuspecting individuals with ridiculous fines and fees is becoming increasingly common, as IJ REPOPRTS:

Ultimately, this case is bigger than Jim. In 2007, the entire amount of fines that Dunedin imposed for code violations was $34,000 - only a little more than the amount the city is now demanding for Jim’s lawn alone. A decade later, in 2017, the city was raking in 20 times as much, about $700,000. In fiscal year 2018, it collected almost $1.3 million in total fines.The city’s code enforcement attorney - the one who refused to negotiate with Jim - calls the system a “well oiled machine.”

It represents a larger trend: governments imposing crippling and excessive fines and fees and then using abusive tactics to collect. For example, Florida is considering taking away the restored voting rights of felons who haven’t been able to pay court fees. Nationwide, about forty states will take away your driver’s license if you owe certain fees to the government. In the most egregious cases, a city might even give a private prosecutor a financial incentive to go after minor code violations and then charge residents for their own prosecutions (source)

It seems that governments seek out opportunities to steal property.

Consider the following examples.

In 2011, Eileen Battisti lost her home over an unpaid $6.30 tax bill. Yes, you read that figure right. No, it is not a typo. When Battistis husband died, she used the proceeds from his life insurance policy to pay off the mortgage but struggled to keep up with some other bills. She missed a property tax deadline by six days but eventually paid the original bill of $833.88 plus the penalty and late fees. However, she was unaware that additional interest of $6.30 had accrued Җ that amount was not included on the last bill she received.

In 2010, Battisti was late again with her county tax payments. She again settled up, paying interest and penalty in full for 2010. The $6.30 from 2008 remained unpaid and Battisti claims that she was not made aware of the balance. By 2011, the amount due from the 2008 tax bill had ballooned to $255.84. County officials proceeded to put Battistis home up for sale.

Battisti’s home was eventually sold at sheriff’s sale for nearly $120,000. After taxes, interest and costs deducted from the sale, Battisti was entitled to just $108,039 from the proceeds. She was not entitled to her home. (SOURCEsource)

When I first heard about Battisti’s case several years ago, it was quite the wake-up call. For the first time, I realized that we really do not have any true property rights here in the US.

Thankfully, in 2014, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that Battisti was entitled to her home because she was not given clear notice of the amount due. But can you believe this case had to be taken all the way to the states highest court - and that it took 3 years for Battisti to get her home back?

Last month, a woman in New Jersey was facing the prospect of losing her house in Cranford that she has lived in since the 1940s - because of delinquent property taxes. Rose Estwanick is a 106-year-old widow who suffers from a plethora of physical ailments as well as dementia. Estwanicks daughter created a [url="" rel="nofollow:<GOFUNDME CAMPAIGN</a< for her mother, in which she shared the tragic details of the situation:

<blockquote<<i<Having checked with our municipal tax office, we cannot defer property taxes. The State of New Jersey has no hardship exemptions for centenarian homeowners on social security income. We have one option available to avoid the Cranford Township Tax Sale scheduled for September 18, 2019: Make a minimum PAYMENT OF $8,367.18. (<a href="" rel="nofollow"]SOURCE[/url])</i></blockquote>

On the bright side, EstwanickҒs fundraising campaign has raised over $22,000 so far, exceeding the $12,000 goal her daughter established.

All of these cases shed light on a troubling reality: we truly do not own anything.

As Daisy Luther eloquently states in ARE WE RELLY FREE ? Maybe Its Time for a Personal Declaration of Independence:

How independent are any of us, really? We like to think we live in the free-estӔ nation in the world, but do we really?  Think about it.

You never own your home outright, even when the mortgage is paid off. Every year, you must make your extortion payment to the city or trust me, you wont be living in that house for long.

The same thing with your car. If you donҒt pay your annual extortion payment on your vehicle and pay a hundred bucks for a tiny sticker that gives you permission to drive it, it will be promptly towed away by the city with the governments blessing. Then, like a hostage negotiation gone wrong, youҒll have to pay even more money to cover their theft and storage of YOUR vehicle.

On a regular basis, you must pay a fee and ask the government for permission to do any number of things, such as driving a car, traveling outside the country, running a business, adding another bathroom to your home, or even catching a fish for dinner.

Permits and licenses are big revenue generators from start to finish and if you proceed without asking permission, they will extort more money from you in the form of fines. If you refuse to pay the fines (or if you can֒t) theyll kidnap you and lock you in a cage, where youҒll be forced to perform manual labor for 10 cents an hour for whatever length of time the legal authorities feel is sufficient to teach you a lesson.

There are places in our nation where you cant use your property the way you want. There are areas where you cannot collect the water that falls on your land. There are places where you arenҒt allowed to detach your home from the grid. There are places that dictate where your vegetable garden can grow (or even if youre allowed to have one), places that wonҒt allow you to hang your clothes out to dry, and places that make it illegal to sleep in your car.

The bottom line is, some places in the United States are freer than others, but were all still serfs paying fealty to lords. (SOURCE)

Perhaps a little, not a lot - of rebellion is in order.

What if people started refusing to pay these exorbitant fines?

What if people started helping each other - reaching out to each other to offer help, mowing each others tall grass, and offering other forms of assistance?

What if we all worked together to protest massive government overreach and showed tyrants that we arenҒt going to put up with their coercion and bullying tactics anymore?

There is power in numbers.

This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.

Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both.

The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.
- Frederick Douglass

What do you think?

Do you think governments are becoming exceedingly tyrannical? What do you think about local governments entering private property to ֓inspect people’s yards and home exteriors?

Dagny Taggart is the pseudonym of an experienced journalist who needs to maintain anonymity to keep her job in the public eye. Dagny is non-partisan and aims to expose the half-truths, misrepresentations, and blatant lies of the MSM.


Posted by Elvis on 08/15/19 •
Section Dying America
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Monday, August 12, 2019

Fleeing America Redux 3


image: portugal

Madonna’s Welcome, But Portugal Wants Immigrants to Lift Economy

By Joao Lima, with assistance by Henrique Almeida
July 30, 2019

It’s not just the likes of Madonna and the Aga Khan that Portugal wants to attract.

Unlike many governments in Europe, Portugal wants immigrants to shore up its economy as its population shrinks and ages. While it has drawn the rich—Madonna went house hunting in Lisbon in 2017 and the Aga Khan was granted Portuguese nationality this year—the country is making a push to lure back citizens who fled the euro-area crisis and attract immigrants who can fill crucial gaps in the labor market.

"This isn’t about just any immigration; its about drawing qualified immigrants for the needs of the Portuguese economy,” said Jorge Bravo, an economics professor at the Nova University in Lisbon. “Mostly in terms of salaries, we’re not very competitive. If there was a championship for the most sought-after countries for immigration, Portugal isn’t in the Champions League.”

As Portugal prepares for a general election in October, the lack of immigrants rather than their presence may be a campaign issue for politicians. Unlike in Italy and Hungary, where the anti-immigrant parties of Matteo Salvini and Viktor Orban are in power, and France, where Marine Le Pens party led the European Parliamentary vote in May, Portugal has no populist forces at play. In fact, some of the country’s businesses want politicians to come up with coherent plans to lure immigrants.

Help Wanted

“The tourism and hospitality industry is among those feeling the shortage most acutely. Finding adequately skilled housekeeping and kitchen staff is the most complicated,” Theotonio said. He wants the government to make labor rules more flexible to accommodate temporary and seasonal workers.

“The average education level of the Portuguese has increased a lot, so its natural that in jobs such as room service or waiters there’s a lack of workers, said Raul Martins, the chairman of the Altis hotel chain and the head of Portugal’s Hotel Association, which represents about 600 hotel companies.

Tourism represents about 14% of Portugals gross domestic product and has boosted the economy, which expanded for a fifth consecutive year in 2018. That’s helped Prime Minister Antonio Costas minority Socialist government to lower the jobless rate and manage the budget deficit. Portugal’s unemployment rate of 6.6% in May was less than half of Spain’s 13.6% and below the euro-area average of 7.5%.

Hiring Troubles

Still, Portugals debt ratio remains the third-highest in the euro area, behind Greece and Italy, and to keep the growth engine chugging along the country needs more hands.

Slower Phase

The Bank of Portugal warned in a report on June 12 that ғsome indicators suggest there are difficulties for Portuguese companies to hire workers, particularly those with higher qualification levels.

The number of immigrants in Portugal increased 14% in 2018 to 480,300, the highest since at least 1976, according to its Immigration and Borders Service. That hasnԒt been enough to offset its shrinking population, which has dropped since 2010 and reached about 10.3 million at the end of 2018. Projections show it may fall to 7.9 million in 2080.

The median age in Portugal was 45.2 years in 2018, having increased by about 4.4 years since 2008. In 2017, the country had the third-highest median age in the European Union at 44.8 years, behind Italy and Germany.
Open Arms

The country’s arms are open for the Portuguese who want to return, Jose Luis Carneiro, the secretary of state for Portuguese communities, said at a July 22 presentation of measures to get citizens to come back. The government is offering up to 6,536 euros ($7,276) to returnees.

Portugal has had some success in drawing so-called non-habitual residents. Lured by its beaches, clement weather, laid-back life and, crucially, its tax breaks, almost 30,000 people have made the country their home. A third of them earn a pension overseas.

Italian actress Monica Bellucci, French fashion designer Christian Louboutin and former Manchester United Football Club player Eric Cantona are among those whoԒve bought property or are reportedly sometime-residents in Portugal.

The government has been criticized for its tax breaks to the rich. Critics also say wealthy foreigners have boosted real estate values, pricing out locals. The regime allows expatriates to pay as little as 20% on their income tax during a decade and exempts some pensioners from taxes altogether.

Like Singapore

“Retirees locally spur some sectors linked mostly to tourism and leisure, as can be seen in the Algarve, or in the cities of Lisbon and Oporto, and in small inland areas,” said Bravo. “But it’s not the solution.”

On July 23, the government expanded the regime to add farmers and machine operators to the list of eligible professions, citing difficulties in hiring workers.

Portugal needs an “intelligent immigration” policy, like in countries such as Singapore and Canada, that isn’t just based on tax incentives, Antonio Horta-Osorio, the CEO of Lloyds Banking Group Plc and a Portuguese national, said at a conference near Lisbon on May 17.

“We have an extraordinary demographic problem compared to the rest of Europe,” he said. “Portugal should work on attracting people with the qualifications and abilities that our companies and society need,” he said.


Posted by Elvis on 08/12/19 •
Section Dying America
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Team Players

image: union workers

Great Teams Don’t Need Star Players

August 11, 2019

It’s tempting to believe that the very best team efforts come from recruiting the very best talent. But RESEARCH from Carnegie Mellon’s Anita Williams Woolley suggests otherwise. Having talented people on your team helps, but Woolley found that group members SOCIAL SENSITIVITY - the ability to identify and respond to social cues is much more important. What else helps? Groups that encourage equal participation, rather than deferring to one or two dominant players. And one recipe for team failure? Encouraging members to compete with each other.



Why do teams of talented individuals so often underperform? The emerging science of “collective intelligence” may have the answers.

This is an edited extract from The Intelligence Trap: Why Smart People Make Dumb Mistakes.

Iceland should never have made it to the Euro 2016 men’s football tournament. Four years previously, they were ranked 131st in the world. Yet they knocked out the Netherlands in the qualifiers, and then as the smallest nation ever to reach the championships, drew with Portugal and Hungary, and then took down Austria. But their biggest scalp was England, a team packed with star names. So how did they do it - and what lessons can be learned from their unexpected success?

Many organisations employ highly intelligent, qualifed people in the assumption that they will automatically combine their collective brainpower to produce magical results. Yet such groups often fail to cash in on their talents, with poor creativity, lost efficiency and sometimes overly risky decision making. And exactly the same dynamics that brought Iceland their victory, and England their defeat, can help us to understand why.

Lets first consider some more general intuitions about group thinking.

One popular idea has been the “wisdom of the crowd” the idea that many brains, working together, can correct for each others errors in judgements; we make each other better.

Some good evidence of this view comes from an analysis of scientists’ journal articles, which nds that collaborative efforts are far more likely to be cited and applied than papers with just one author. Contrary to the notion of a lone genius, conversations and the exchange of ideas bring out the best in the team members; their combined brainpower allows them to see connections that had been invisible previously.

Yet there are also plenty of notorious examples where team thinking fails, sometimes at great cost. Opposing voices point to the phenomenon of “groupthink” - first described in detail by the Yale University psychologist Irving Janis. Inspired by the Bay of Pigs disaster in 1961, he explored the reasons why the Kennedy administration decided to invade Cuba. He concluded that Kennedy[s advisors had been too eager to reach a consensus decision and too anxious about questioning each other’s judgements. Instead, they reinforced their existing biases.

Sceptics of collective reasoning may also point to the many times that groups simply fail to agree on any decision at all, reaching an impasse, or they may overly complicate a problem by incorporating all the points of view. This impasse is really the opposite of the more single-minded groupthink, but it can nonetheless be very damaging for a teams productivity. You want to avoid “design by committee.”

Testing group intelligence

The latest research helps us to reconcile all these views, offering some clever new tools to determine whether or not a group of talented people can tap into their combined ability.

Anita Williams Woolley has been at the forefront of these new findings, with the invention of a “collective intelligence” test that promises to revolutionise our understanding of group dynamics.

Designing the test was a Herculean task. One of the biggest challenges was designing a test that captured the full range of thinking that a group has to engage with: brainstorming, for instance, involves a kind of divergent thinking that is very different from the more restrained, critical thinking you may need to come to a decision.

Her team eventually settled on a five-hour battery of tasks that together tested four different kinds of thinking: generating new ideas; choosing a solution based on sound judgement; negotiating to reach compromise; and finally, general ability at task execution (such as coordinating movements and activities).

Unlike an individual intelligence test, many of the tasks were practical in nature. In a test of negotiation skills, for instance, the groups had to imagine that they were housemates sharing a car on a trip into town, each with a list of groceries - and they had to plan their trip to get the best bargains with the least driving time. In a test of moral reasoning, meanwhile, the subjects played the role of a jury, describing how they would judge a basketball player who had bribed his instructor.

And to test their overall execution, the team members were each sat in front of a separate computer and asked to enter words into a shared online document a deceptively simple challenge that tested how well they could coordinate their activities. The participants were also asked to perform some verbal or abstract reasoning tasks that might be included in a traditional IQ test - but they answered as a group, rather than individually.

The first exciting finding was that each teams score on one of the constituent tasks correlated with its score on the other tasks. In other words, there appeared to be an underlying factor (rather like the underlying brainpower that is meant to be redirected in our general intelligence) that meant that some teams consistently performed better than others.

Crucially, a group’s success appeared to only modestly reflect the members average IQ. Nor could it be strongly linked to the highest IQ within the group. The teams weren’t simply relying on the smartest member to do all the thinking.

Since they published that first paper in Science in 2010, Woolleys team has veriified their test in many different contexts, showing that it can predict the success of many real-world projects. They studied students completing a two-month group project in a university management course, for instance. Sure enough, the collective intelligence score predicted the team’s performance on various assignments. Intriguingly, teams with a higher collective intelligence kept on building on their advantage during this project: not only were they better initially; they also improved the most over the eight weeks.

Woolley has also applied her test in the army, in a bank, in teams of computer programmers, and at a large financial services company, which ironically had one of the lowest collective intelligence scores she had ever come across. Disappointingly, she wasnt asked back; a symptom, perhaps, of their poor groupthink.

Behaviours that help

The test is much more than a diagnostic tool, however. It has also allowed Woolley to investigate the underlying reasons why some teams have higher or lower collective intelligence - and the ways those dynamics might be improved.

One of the most consistent predictors is the team members social sensitivity. To measure this quality, Woolley used a classic measure of emotional perception, in which participants are given photos of an actor’s eyes and asked to determine what emotion that person is supposed to be feeling, with the participants average score strongly predicting how well they would perform on the group tasks.

Woolley has also probed the specific interactions that can elevate or destroy a team’s thinking. Companies may value someone who is willing to take charge when a group lacks a hierarchy, for instance - the kind of person who may think of themselves as a natural leader. Yet when Woolley’s team measured how often each member spoke, they found that the better groups tend to allow each member to participate equally; the worst groups, in contrast, tended to be dominated by just one or two people.

The most destructive dynamic, Woolley has found, is when team members start competing against each other. This was the problem with the financial services company and their broader corporate culture. Each year, the company would only promote a fixed number of individuals based on their performance reviews - meaning that each employee would feel threatened by the others, and group work suffered as a result.

Since Woolley published those first results, her research has garnered particular interest for its insights into sexism in the workplace. The irritating habits of some men to mansplain, interrupt and appropriate women’s ideas has been noted by many commentators in recent years. By shutting down a conversation and preventing women from sharing their knowledge, those are exactly the kinds of behaviours that sabotage group performance.

Sure enough, Woolley has shown that at least in her experiments in the USA - teams with a greater proportion of women have a higher collective intelligence, and that this can be linked to their higher, overall, social sensitivity, compared to groups consisting of a larger proportion of men.

Does self-worth sabotage?

Woolleys work provides good evidence that individual talent may matter far less than the overall group dynamics within a team. To fully understand Iceland’s success and England’s defeat, we also need to explore how an individuals perceptions of their own talent can influence those group dynamics and the overall collective intelligence.

Various studies have found that inflated beliefs of your own competence and power can impair your abilities to cooperate within a team. And this means that groups of high-flying individuals often fail to make good and creative decisions, despite their individual experience and talent.

An analysis of Dutch telecommunications and financial institutions, for instance, examined behaviour in teams across the companies’ hierarchies, finding that the higher up the company you go, the greater the level of conflict reported by the employees.

Crucially, this seemed to depend on the members own understanding of their positions in the pecking order. If the team as a whole agreed on their relative positions, they were more productive, since they avoided constant jockeying for authority. The worst groups were composed of high-status individuals who didn’t know their rank in the pecking order.

The most striking example of these powerplays - and the clearest evidence that too much talent can be counter-productive - comes from a study of star equity analysts in Wall Street banks. Each year, Institutional Investor ranks the top analysts in each sector, offering them a kind of rock-star status among their colleagues.

These people often flock together at the same prestigious firms, but that doesn’t always bring the rewards the company might have hoped.

A study of five years’ data found that teams with more star players do indeed perform better, but only up to a certain point, after which the benefits of additional star talent tailed often. And with more than around 45% of the department fillled with Institutional Investors picks, the departments appeared to become less effective.

We see exactly the same dynamics in many sports. The social psychologist Adam Galinsky, for instance, has examined the performance of football (soccer) teams in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. To determine the countryҒs top talentґ, they calculated how many of its squad were currently on the payroll of one of the top 30 highest-earning clubs. They then compared this value to the countrys ranking in the qualifying rounds.

In line with the study of the Wall Street analysts, Galinsky’s team found a curvilinear relationship; a team benefitted from having a few stars, but the balance seemed to tip at about 60%.

If we look back at Icelands unexpected victory against England, it’s clear that the quality of the individual players was undoubtedly better than it ever had been. But although many worked for international football clubs, just one of them at the time (Sigursson) had a contract in one of the top-30 clubs. England, in contrast, had pulled 21 of its 23 players from these super-rich teams, far above the optimum threshold.

Humble leaders

All this research provides a couple of tips that could be applied to any team to improve performance. The first is in hiring: look for people with that social sensitivity rather than simply employing the person with the best individual performance. For the group as a whole, it may turn out to be far more valuable particularly if you already have lots of high-flying members.

The second is to ensure that the leader displays the kinds of behaviours they expect within the team. Various studies have found that traits like humility can be contagious. If the leader is willing to listen to others more constructively, rather than dominating the conversation, and admit his or her mistakes, the team as a whole can begin to nurture those dynamics that increase the overall collective intelligence.

After Iceland’s unexpected success at the Euro 2016 tournament, many commentators highlighted the down-to-earth attitude of Heimir Hallgrmsson, one of the teams two coaches, who still worked part time as a dentist. He was apparently devoted to listening and understanding others풒 points of view, and he tried to cultivate that attitude in all of his players.

Team-building is a must for a country like ours; “we can only beat the big teams by working as one,” he told the sports channel ESPN. If you look at our team, we have guys like Sigurisson at Swansea [Football Club], who is probably our highest-profile player, but hes the hardest worker on the pitch. If that guy works the hardest, who in the team can be lazy?

David Robson is a senior journalist at BBC Future. This article is an extract from his recent book The Intelligence Trap: Why Smart People Make Dumb Mistakes.



Reading the Mind in the Eyes or Reading between the Lines?
Theory of Mind Predicts Collective Intelligence Equally Well Online and Face-To-Face

By David Engel, Anita Williams Woolley. Lisa X. Jing, Christopher F. Chabris, Thomas W. Malone
Published: December 16, 2014
Plos One


Recent research with face-to-face groups found that a measure of general group effectiveness (called collective intelligence) predicted a groups performance on a wide range of different tasks. The same research also found that collective intelligence was correlated with the individual group members ability to reason about the mental states of others (an ability called Theory of Mind or ToM). Since ToM was measured in this work by a test that requires participants to read the mental states of others from looking at their eyes (the Reading the Mind in the Eyes test), it is uncertain whether the same results would emerge in online groups where these visual cues are not available. Here we find that: (1) a collective intelligence factor characterizes group performance approximately as well for online groups as for face-to-face groups; and (2) surprisingly, the ToM measure is equally predictive of collective intelligence in both face-to-face and online groups, even though the online groups communicate only via text and never see each other at all. This provides strong evidence that ToM abilities are just as important to group performance in online environments with limited nonverbal cues as they are face-to-face. It also suggests that the Reading the Mind in the Eyes test measures a deeper, domain-independent aspect of social reasoning, not merely the ability to recognize facial expressions of mental states.


Posted by Elvis on 08/12/19 •
Section Revelations • Section Dying America • Section Workplace
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Saturday, August 10, 2019

The Line Between Love and Narcissism

image: unpefect

“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
- Galatians 5:19-21

Disconnected from our human and spiritual roots, we flail around in a world that is oblivious to the suffering of others. Lacking a gentle mindfulness toward our own feelings and vulnerability, we quickly LOOK AWAY from who are suffering or the environmental havoc were creating.
- Spiritual starving.

There’s a lot of “take responsibility” platitudes in the personal development space, and they are largely nonsense. People tell others to take responsibility when they don’t want to understand.
- Everything doesn’t happen for a reason.

“If you are wise,” she said, “You’re not only regulating your emotional state, you’re also attending to another person’s emotional state.” She added: “You’re not focusing so much on what you need and deserve, but on what you can contribute.”
- The science of older and wiser.

Why I’ve Come to Think the Notion of “Self-Love” is a Myth

By Umair Hague
August 9,2019

The other day, Tig Notaro said something on Twitter that struck a chord with me to the effect of:

Isn’t it funny how the people who should hate themselves the most don’t, and the ones that shouldn’t do?

It’s funny. Because it seems to be true. There’s a stranger truth, though, of human nature. We lionize self-love these days. And yet it always seems that were falling short of it. It seems like an impossible struggle, in fact. You want me to love… this person - whose flaws and failings I know only too well? And yet there’s an intimate link there, too, to the rage consuming this age, that’s boiling over into extremism (I’ll come to that, first a little psychology.)

Here’s a secret. One that especially us Americans aren’t familiar with, haven’t quite understood. And it goes a very long way to the heart of our failings as a society (and as a world, too.) It goes like this.

Everyone hates themselves. Yes, really. Everyone hates themselves (and the Trumps of the universe hate themselves most of all, which is why they’re always trying to prove how “great” they are.)

And not in a superficial way. I hate myself because I’m not pretty enough, rich enough, thin enough, ripped enough, popular enough, famous enough. Nor in a social way: I hate myself because they have more than me, I hate myself because I’m not part of the right tribe, the in-group, the elite (lets band together, incels, and go kill us some women.) Not in that thin, surface way at all.

Everyone hates themselves in the deepest way of all. In an existential way. Inescapably. Deep, deep down. What do we hate ourselves for? Just for existing. For being. In our predicament. For being mortal. For being alone. For being finite. For being limited to the prison of our individuality. For being helpless and powerless to change any of it one bit. We hate ourselves existentially, and it cuts at the deepest part of us. We hate ourselves - and it takes courage and more than a little self-reflection to see it just for the condition of being alive, for its irresolvable uncertainty, its unknowability, its impossible beauty. But who wouldn’t? To exist is a terrible, unbearable burden. Nobody knows why, how, when, where we go, where we came from, what happens to us, what were made of, what the point of us is. We flicker out after barely having taken a breath. The only alternative to the burden of living all that is death. Dilemma. JUST EXISTING IS MORE TERRIFYING THAN ANY HELL ever invented.

Now. Really think about that for a second. Think about all of us, carrying all that self-hate around, every day - and all of us trying our best to deny it, ignore it, bury it, because its the deepest pain that we have. The primal wound in us. All of us. All that hurt, all that aching, pulsing around the globe, every second of every day. Each one of us has that primal wound, burning. But how many of us admit it?

What do we do with it? Well, mostly we try to run away from it - by focusing on the superficial forms of self-hate, because we imagine they’re things we can fix. I can get thinner. I can get richer. I can get more popular. But I can’t get any more life, any more power over death, any more time, any less finite, any less helpless. No matter how hard I try or what I do.

Yet think about futile and useless it is to try and address the superficial forms of self-hate without dealing with, as we say these days, the deep one. You can pile up money and fame and likes and be the prettiest most ripped one of all. What happens? Does it do anything at all to ease the hurt right down in the soul? Not a bit. If you doubt that, take a look at how many happy Instagrammers or YouTubers or even Hollywood stars or bankers there are.

As a culture, we tell ourselves three key myths of self-love, which are also therefore myths of self-hate. The first is that we can outrun our self-hate in a competitive way by outdoing the next person. That one weגre proven false. The second one is that we can force self-love on ourselves, by repeating mantras, by BEING POSITIVE, and so forth. And the third is that self-love is some kind of great and shining prize, without which happiness isnt really possible. What about those two?

If positivity could make people love themselves, then American should be the happiest people in human history. But they’re not. THEY’RE PRETTY MISERABLE, in fact. Depression and loneliness are endemic. Suicide is skyrocketing. A nation of self-lovers? Not quite. Americans have set themselves an impossible bar: perfect lives, which have to be loved - or else life is barely worth living at all. Neither one of those things is true.

We forget how deep self-hate, of the existential kind, really cuts through us. How can I love this thing - this being that will die, never knowing why it lived? How can I love this being - this one that is exiled to be alone, no matter how close another ever gets, even if we spend a lifetime in each others arms? How can I love this one - the being who is finite and fragile, and helpless to change that finitude and fragility in any real way at all? Who could love a thing like that?

It’s NO SURPRISE that as a culture, we try to run away from this PREDICAMENT. As Sartre said, “it feels sickening.” As Camus said, “it’s absurd and horrific.” As Kierkegaard said, “it’s terrifying.” To be this thing, this being, that needs to be loved, held, seen - and yet knows its own fragility and mortality and smallness all too well. We run away from it with RELIGION, with ESCAPISM, with CONSUMERISM, with CRUELTY, with VIOLENCE, with war, with greed, with HATE. We run away from it all the way down into the abyss.

Now we come to a great paradox of the human condition. You and I have this burning need to BE HELD, to be seen, to be known. And yet we hate ourselves for the knowledge of who we truly are. Do you see the irony? Its a terrible plight. It’s tragedy within tragedy. First, the tragedy of mortality and finitude and then the double tragedy of hating one’s self for it. How do we resolve this tragedy? Can we? Are we just empty, meaningless things? Or does the paradox itself hold the keys to a higher meaning, a greater purpose, something that finally matters? It does of course it does.

In that paradox lie the beginnings of all that is true and noble in us. Empathy, courage, wisdom, defiance, grace. The power to love is born right there. I can say: “I know myself as a thing who hates itself for its finitude, its fragility, its powerlessness. But you are just that thing, too. Ah I see you in me. I can’t love myself for being this thing. But you are not me. Perhaps I can love you. Here take my hand. Let us wander this desert together.” Our wounds in that way are our guides.

Do you see what I mean? Let me put it a little more succinctly. Its in the recognition of self-hate as an inescapable and universal condition of being human that love is born. I empathize with you. I hold you. I see you. I know you. As someone who is always, deep down, aching and hurting just like me. Always. Forever. Until the last breath. Are you not worth loving? I can’t love myself. I know myself too well. I will always hate myself, a little but I can love you.

We need ONE ANOTHER to be CAPABLE OF LOVE. If you are not there, who will empathize with me? I I am not there, who will see you, hold you, know you? Doesn’t it seem obvious when I put it that way? How could such a thing as self-love ever really have been?

Ive come to think that “self-love” is a myth. Perhaps the logic above shows you why. I can’t love myself because Im the subject of my own finitude, fragility, helplessness, no matter what I do. But you are not. I can love you.

I think it takes people, really seeing each other, to teach one another what love is. One can’t love ones self in a vacuum any more than an atom in a vacuum can catch fire. Perhaps that’s why Americans chase this glittering prize called self-love but forever fail to find it. Itגs an illusion to begin with. If the idea that loving yourself makes you love others were trueӔ, after all, wouldnt America be a functioning society? ItҒs full of little narcissists, of egoists but that is all. And that, I think, is where the modern obsession with דself-love leads. America is what happens when the wound is not the guide.

If there is no one else there, just a vacuum - then our well of self-hate will soon take over. And that, it seems to me, is what happened to America. Americans are, as the saying goes, “lonely together.” Trapped in little isolated bubbles of lonelinss - desperately seeking self-love -being positive - reciting mantras - chasing a thing which doesn’t really exist - and so as a society, America goes nowhere, except down and down, because nobody is doing the emotional work of really seeing, holding, or knowing anyone else. Self-hatred comes to rule. Hence, Americans are renowned for their cruelty, their lack of empathy, their hate, their greed and violence. The yellow brick road of self-love ends in the sandcastles of narcissism.

Now. If there’s no such thing as “self-love,” then what is there? There’s something much more like peace. Like knowing. Like a gentle consolation. Like a last stand. Like an embrace of acceptance. This is me. In my finitude. In my helplessness. In all my fragility. I am standing inside my mortality. I am reaching upwards to the sky, anyways. I am this thing, made of, as Kierkegaard said, fear and trembling. Let me admit it. Let me be just that thing. Instead of pretending to be something else. Isnt that living a lie? As difficult and painful as it is - let me be just that thing. Without pretense. Authentically. Let the wound in me be my guide.

Do you see the difference? What I’m describing is an ambivalent thing. It isn’t a kind of passionate, egotistical, narcissistic infatuation “look how awesome I am!! It’s a conflicted thing, a position that’s bent-over, the crook of a gnarled tree, the bend of a river. I don’t know if I can love myself. I know myself too well for that. I know that Im alone, I’m helpless, I’m ignorant, I’m mortal things I donגt want to be, cant bear. I can, perhaps, know that. Admit it. Accept it. With a kind of defiance.

I can rebel, as Camus said - but only if I have the courage to know who and what I really am. I can never love that thing, that bent, broken, helpless one I call myself. But perhaps I dont have to hate it, either. It is just who it is. Who it was born being. Who it is condemned, as Sartre said, to be. Perhaps I can offer it as it is to someone just like it.

All that I can do in this life is to reach out my hand. And walk beside you. I can love you, perhaps, for your fragility, for your finitude, for your littleness - but never myself, because I am me, the subject of all my own finitude, and you are not. The same is true for you. In that way, love is born. The wound is your guide.

But that also means that we have a choice in this life. Either we love ourselves which is to say glorify, aggrandize, and reward them, none of which are really love, but all numbing escapes from the central existential challenge of self-hate. Or we love. We just love. The river, the mountain, the tree. The soil that becomes the forest. The word, the letter, the song. And if weגre lucky, that way, perhaps we find someone we see the whole universe in.

I think that America chose the illusion called “self-love.” But the more that I reflect on it, the more I conclude: there’s no such thing. There’s an ambivalent, conflicted, difficult peace. With the position of finitude and fragility that makes us us. But we can’t love ourselves for being these things - the MOST WE CAN DO is not hate ourselves for being who and what we are. And yet those are precisely what make love - which is always the discovery of meaning beyond the finite, helpless, limited self - possible.


Posted by Elvis on 08/10/19 •
Section Spiritual Diversions • Section Personal
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