The poor have always asked for alms or welfare. But what if the middle class starts seeking that too?
Productivity has been constantly rising ever since the Industrial Revolution, but the gains from that extra productivity haven't trickled down to the rest of the population as quickly. Technology has been gobbling up more and more human labor, and economists have always argued that the cost savings in consumer goods are greater than the loss in human wages. So for example, the displaced farmer's wages are theoretically balanced out by the reduced cost of food.
The first problem with this theory is that it's cold comfort to the recently unemployed farmer. The second problem is that it's not true that every dollar lost in wages gets automatically replaced by two dollars in reduced cost of consumer goods. Instead, what happens is that those savings get accumulated by capitalists.
The majority of people would be unhappy with this arrangement if it was presented to them in stark relief, so the upper class has always made bargains with the lower classes to keep them from revolt. For the lowest class, they have been given a minimal amount of welfare to keep them from forming mobs. For the middle class, the arrangement has been more complicated.
The middle class's deal has been to get creature comforts that sort of scale with productivity gains, so long as they're willing to work hard, get educated, and specialize in a profession. Everybody in the middle class is operating under a system, whether simulated or real, of a meaningful division of labor. In their head, their job harks back to a time of apprentices, blacksmiths, and cobblers all contributing to a colorful and lively city and economy.
But we're reaching a point where the productivity machine is no longer just gobbling up poor farmer jobs. It's gobbling up middle class jobs that were once secure. The accountant is being replaced by QuickBooks. The journalist is being replaced by Twitter. It's not hard to imagine the teacher eventually being replaced by Kahn Academy.
While it's true that there has been some creative destruction, with these smart workers switching to different, more creative careers, at some point there will be no more random marketing jobs available to mop up the unemployed. You can already see that some of the substitutes for these positions, like journalist/blogger, are at a lower pay. Educated, specialized, middle class Americans are making the same, relative to inflation, today as they were ten years ago, despite total growth in GDP per capita. It's not hard to imagine that ten years from now, middle class Americans will be making less.
This is going to call into question the special bargain between the middle and upper classes. Middle class welfare has sort of creeped into existence through socialist states with universal healthcare. But, so far this has been under the premise that the average dollars that a middle class person pays in taxes is much more than the the services they get back from the state.
At some point—which may already be happening—the middle class will take more than they give. Conservative parties have recently been calling into question the viability of universal health care in countries like Canada and the United Kingdom. The middle class will have to get on a direct form of welfare eventually, lest they take up arms and revolt too.
One big regret that people commonly express at funerals is that they didn't tell the deceased how much they really meant to them. To remedy this, what if we wrote a eulogy for each of our loved ones before they died, and then shared it with them.
There are some grim implications to this proposition, but they can be mitigated. Perhaps, after writing down a eulogy, you could distill the bullet points from it and ask yourself, "Does my loved one know that I think this highly of them?" For example, if you think your best friend is a really good listener, would they know that?
Then, instead of telling them outright, which could be awkward, you could drop hints every now and then or randomly mention the compliment in passing. People tend to cling onto such poignant lauds, even if uttered in a casual manner, and they have the possibility of changing the whole dynamic of your relationship.
Perhaps this should be the real "bucket list:" drop hints to everybody you know about the high esteem you really hold them in.
The process of writing, of committing something to paper, expresses the following: "I'm not willing to part with this." Consider the most basic forms of writing: little shopping lists or a to-do lists. We make these things because we don't want to forget something. By extension, we write ideas down because we want to keep them, to pin them down. Inevitably we become attached to what we write, and so sometimes we intentionally write something down to form a bond.
Is a fear of writing, in some cases, a form of attachment-anxiety? Perhaps reluctant writers don't want to tie themselves down to a particular idea. Perhaps most brains work with fluid ideas that change depending on when they're called into question. Perhaps writing things down forces our brains to prematurely commit. In which case, the act of not writing is a way to keep oneself free from attachment.
Coping vs. Solving is the central debate when it comes to psychotherapy, anti-depressants, and self-improvement. Do anti-depressants cure disease or do they just mask and postpone it?
We confront issues like this every day. When you have a bad day, what should you do? Should you soak in the hot tub with a bottle of wine? Should you engage in positive thinking? Or should you sit down and figure out why your day was bad and learn how to prevent it from happening again?
Everybody has their own pattern of responses, and they probably do a moderate amount of both. If they have a bad day, they turn on the TV a little to drown out the pain, and then maybe complain a little to a loved one. It makes the rest of the day go by more easily, and by complaining daily, they may eventually accumulate some sort of understanding of what needs to be done to fix their bad days.
There's a simple Roarsarch test for where you stand on coping vs. solving. First, consider the technique known as smile therapy. This espouses that you should, every day, spend some amount of time forcing yourself to smile. The process of doing so releases neurotransmitters in your brain related to the same kind of joy that would make you smile in the first place. Now, after knowing about this, are you going to do it?
Some people will naturally shake their head, objecting that smile therapy fakes happiness. That's a valid complaint, but then again you have to wonder which habitual coping mechanisms fake happiness or provide authentic happiness.
Some people would immediately embrace "smile therapy" thinking it's an all-natural way to find happiness. But then again, what if you're in an oppressive marriage that you need to get out of, you probably shouldn't use smile therapy to keep yourself in it.
The way to get out of this either-or pickle is to use the terms "causative redress" vs. "symptomatic redress." Causative redress is an attempt to handle what is causing the problem. For example, if you failed an exam and became sad, causative redress would come up with a plan on how to do better the next time.
Symptomatic redress is an attempt, as its name suggests, to deal with the symptoms. For example, if you failed an exam and became sad, symptomatic redress would imply exercising to relieve stress.
Some kinds of redress are both causative and symptomatic. For example, therapists argue that taking anti-depressants helps retrain your brain to behave more positively, which in of itself, helps you fix concrete problems in your life.
This then boils the coping vs. solving debate into a simple rule:
You should only apply so much symptomatic redress that it doesn't obscure or mask the opportunity for causative redress.
For example, if your marriage is falling apart, you shouldn't be drinking every night to mask away the pain—that would be escapism. Instead, maybe a nice jog into the wilderness will both relieve stress and help clear up your mind for positive solutions. Or maybe going to a religious service will give you a soft meditative high while also helping you reflect.
Self-improvement literature probably follows the apocryphal Rule of Thirds from psychotherapy: "One third of patients get better, one third stay the same, and one third get worse." So rather than understanding self-improvement literature in terms about whether it works in a general sense, it's better to look at the specific services it sustainably offers:
Empowerment: Often self-improvement is there just to get you up off your chair and out into the world doing things. Tony Robbins is a good example of an author who does this. The goal is to make you more confident. The bulk of empowerment relies on one-line zingers, such as "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing."
Kinship: Self-improvement can also simply offer kinship. The goal of such books is to simply make you feel better about who you already are. For example, stories in Chicken Soup for the Soul are often of people triumphing over adversity, which may help us with our own trials and tribulations. Sometimes kinship literature offers a new keyword to describe your condition. For example, The Highly Sensitive Person is liable to make its readers exclaim, "So that's what's going on with me!"
Tactics: Originally this is what self-help was designed for. For example, one of the earliest self-help books was Every Man His Own Lawyer, which was published in 1784. There are numerous self-improvement books on how to structure a new diet or how to start a business.
Creativity: Creativity self-help is designed to simply open your eyes and imagination. Some books are explicitly about creativity, such as The Artist's Way, and others are only indirectly about creativity. While New Age spirituality purports to be about the spiritual themselves, functionally, they serve to stir people's imaginations and inspire solutions that can't be otherwise logically deduced. For example, the social effect of Feng Shui has been to simply mediate interior decorating conversations, despite the fact that the practice has a world unto itself.
Religion is all about goals and intent. Preventing murder is a worthy goal, for example, according to most religions. Whether or not people follow-up on these goals is not what they're concerned about, at least not directly. There aren't social scientists within the Church studying whether or not their messages change communities in a methodical way. Their "social scientists" are actually religious scholars who study ancient texts for their resonance with souls.
This religious mindset has been made apparent by the debate over abstinence vs. sex education in schools. A recent study found that abstinence pledges are ineffective. Teens who make the pledges have as much premarital sex as teens who don't, and they are more likely to be unprotected while having it. This is unimportant to the Christian Right, though, because the purpose for them is to perpetuate the value of abstinence. Actually preventing premarital sex, is, well, up to God and the individual. The Church is just providing the message.
A further analysis of that same study, though, showed that abstinence pledges work in roughly 20% of cases, typically among pledges who go to Church regularly. So even if on average the abstinence pledges don't work in a statistically significant way, there are enough impressionable children for whom the word of the Lord will work. Perhaps the Church only cares about their regular flock anyways: "Thou shalt obey certain rules. If you don't, then we'll guilt-trip you out of our group, and all that will be left are people who obey our rules." In other words, the Church is trying to create a world where abstinence is the dominant value.
8-Bit music, the kind that harks back nostalgically to early video game consoles, always sounds a bit sad. The music evokes a tragic epic. Perhaps this has to do with attitudes of Post-occupation Japan in the early 1980s, when the Nintendo Entertainment System first came out. Or it could be a common Japanese (or Eastern) musical theme which conveys that life is both suffering and joy, yin and yang, tragic and epic at the same time. Or it could have to do with the aesthetic theme of video games in general. After all, Bowser is always reborn to challenge Mario when you start a new game. In which case, maybe they should make a game where once you kill the boss, you can never kill him again.
The 80/20 rule also applies to procrastination. 80% of procrastination can be solved by the first 20% of work. Consider the process of paying your bills. If you find envelopes stacking up on the table by the landing, it may help to put a letter opener there and to make a rule that nothing on the table shall remain in an envelope. You tell yourself that you don't necessarily have to pay all the bills right then and there, but that at the very least, you'll unmask every piece of mail, throwing away the envelope and throwing away the bundled promotional spam, leaving a simple bill on its own.
Once you do that, the bill has a much greater chance of getting paid. It may even get paid right at that moment since you've created a tiny bit of momentum already to continue and finish the rest of the task.
But if those unadorned bills still sit on your table, you can apply the 80/20 rule again, and simply bring your checkbook to the table. Tell yourself that you're not making yourself pay the bill right then and there, but getting supplies ready for when you're in the mood. The process itself is often enough to get you to fill out the fields and send the check right then and there.
Spain is a fiction. It's a collection of former kingdoms who are currently at peace. Some kingdoms have their own dialects (Castilian Spanish) and even one has its own language (Occitan). Occitania is the failed empire of Aragon. Had the Aragonese won a few more battles, "Spain" would be the Pyrenean Kingdom, and it would only barely occupy the Iberian peninsula.
India doesn't really exist. The separate Indian states, many of whom still hate each other, just bandied together as a way to brush off the the British.
North Filipinos speak a different language (Tagalog) than Southerners (Cebuano), and they mistrust each other more than Yankees and Southerners do in the United States.
We often believe that when a country is for or against us, it's the whole country, when really their internal divisions are often worse than our own.
Success begets more success. That's a given. Early achievements come with a rush of euphoria, but later ones spike less and less, as you seek ever higher levels. The follow-on is not always a basic linear progression, though, where you win a high school championship, then a college one, then a national one, then you make the Olympics, and then you break a world record.
For most people, success progressions are more like fans, where the higher you go, not only are there increasingly difficult challenges, there's also increasing diversity. Linear definitions of success typically start with net worth, but it can also include an ever-increasing array of conditions, such as lifestyle enhancements (how hard do you have to work), number of side projects included (are you a semi-professional rock climber on the side, for example) or the nature of your work (are you running a cool collection of bars downtown). The epitome of this phenomena is the diversity of slash-careers among ambitious Millenials such as the chef/entrepreneur (food trailer operator) or artist/programmer (creative director at a video game company).
The bigger challenge, then, is to figure out what kind of success to pursue. It's all too easy to get lost just figuring out which direction to lean into, especially if you've cultivated skills for a generalized success. This is evidenced by the paradox of meeting successful people (both moneyed and storied), who are not only bored, but still somehow busy. What exactly are they working on?
It's almost like success needs to be re-defined, as the fan widens, to include a meta-success component: "How well are you conforming to your own internal definition of success?"
Teachers of meditation urge students to not think about meditation in terms of better or worse ways of meditating. In practice, this makes sense, because to have some process to strive for in your head goes against the strive-less methods of meditation. However, this a paradox of meditation instruction, because the very act of writing a book on meditation is to identify better or right ways of meditating.
The instructor could avoid critique by saying that their book is offering just one way to meditate. But the act of curating this particular way elevates it to a special status.