The Madness In My Soul

The struggle between individual freedom and communal life. There are two sides of the American character. One is transient; restless; solitary

But the other is collective and communal In search of family, deep roots, and a home for the heart to reside. These two sides rub up against one another always and forever In everyday American life

                                                                                                                    Springsteen

 

Bruce often speaks more eloquently about my own views than I do. And this is a good characterization of my take on the world. This contrast between solitude and community and the desire for movement with the peace of knowing I’ve a place to return to. 

I probably don’t read enough of American history to fully comprehend the significance of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence—or specifically what it meant at that moment in history considering most of the rest of the developed world was being ruled by kings and queens. But I have read enough general history, and traveled the world far and wide enough to understand that our myth of greatness in this country is overstated. There are many governments that deliver a more enjoyable and more sustainable and balanced life experience for a larger percent of their populations than the US. We tend to rationalize this reality by denying comparison—by making silly statements that because we are America, national health care could never work here. Or we could never have successful public transportation because we are too independent of spirit and everyone wants their own car. This is bullshit. All of it. We are just to arrogant to admit our deficiencies and until we do that, we can never have a serious attempt to improve our situation. Health care, social safety net, job and university training, using NATO and other alliances for defense instead of spending in more on defense and intelligence than the next 30 countries combined.

There is a very prescient set of passages in Obama’s book that it would serve joe Biden and his Democratic colleagues to read. There is an uncanny parallel between Obama’s first days in office and Biden’s. In both instances, they are taking over a country that is beset by massive economic calamity due to their Republican predecessors’ dereliction of duty. This is an unfortunately repeatable pattern that we must get used to as long as 1/2 our country continues to drink the Republican cool-aid of nonsensical economic policy. Anyway, Obama and his team bent over backwards to solicit Republican input for the economic recovery package. They held meetings, they personally called house members and senators and they included legislation that was important to Republicans but that they knew Democrats did not like specifically to try to be inclusive. Meanwhile, Republican leadership, led primarily by Mitch McConnell and Eric Cantor and John Boehner, whined in the press that the Democrats were not including them in the discussions. A complete lie which was even obvious since the president’s schedule is a matter of public record. In the end, zero Republicans voted for the bill that ultimately saved the economy from far more devastation. 

Now, the exact same scenario is playing out. Republicans, who drove up the national deficit massively during their reign (same happened with Bush) due to increased military spending and wars and tax cuts for the wealthy, are now pushing back against helping people who are really in need due to the poor stewardship of the Republican administration, and they are using as their rationalization that we should be more constrained in spending to not run up the deficit further. So, the same party that runs up the deficit due to tax cuts for the wealthy and military spending, does all they can to not help people in need when the very crisis they (Republicans) created is pushing people into poverty. During the pandemic, the richest 1% of Americans has seen their wealth massively increase while the majority of the other 99% have struggled. 

This scenario and Republican playbook is so obvious and so well used by now, that it is amazing that it is so clear to me and yet 50% of the country continues to be delusional. This nonsense about socialism and their refusal to help their fellow man (and a huge portion of the Republican base are most in need) is demoralizing and simply continues to make the case that humans are not yet evolved enough for true self rule. We continue to make bad choices that result in harm and hardship for our fellow earth dwellers while even destroying the only planet we have so the greedy capitalists can continue to amass wealth that they will not ever be able to spend. 

Sooooo……. 

One of my early disappoints with the Obama administration was his selection of Larry Summers and Tim Geitner for key economic leadership positions. Obama had campaigned on the need for serious structural reform in our banking and treasury management and overall approach to managing our complicated economic system that favored the rich and privileged over everyone else. The game was rigged and everyone knew and he was the guy who was going to throw some cold water on that party. Summers and  Geitner both were establishment guys with decades of working both inside (government) and outside the system in private sector. They were the guys who had benefitted and help shape the unfair system that had now collapsed in a house of cards. And as we all know they wanted to bail out the bankers with government money and thereby prominently continuing our long tradition of allowing the capitalists to get rich in good times and using taxpayer money to bail them out when things went south. 

But Obama does a decent enough job of explaining that the catastrophic depth and breadth of the issues necessitated that people who knew the system intimately be the architects of the recovery. First save the system, then reform it later. He argued that these two guys had witnessed and assisted with economic collapses in other countries and had the experience to steer us through that tone.

I was at the time in favor of letting those big banks fail and using taxpayer money to protect the average persons savings and investments first. I am still not 100% convinced we would not have been better off to take that poison then and re-build a more fair system. Look at us now—income inequality is far greater now even than it was then. Our structural systems never got reformed to any significant degree and Trump simply made them worse because the changes that were made were superficial and not institutionalized. Obama is a smart mother fucker so perhaps he was right—but he’s also the one writing the book. Iceland let their banks fail and their economy actually recovered much quicker than many other countries. Given where we are today, is it incorrect to say maybe we would have been better off to let the system collapse and re-build it back more fairly?

Given the similarity between now and Obama’s first days, Republicans have zero credibility in pretending that they will act in the best interests of the American people. It is shocking to recall in detail what happened via Obama’s recollection and what is happening now. The Repubs first talk a lot about unity—which they do when they are in the minority. Then they go through some pretense of bipartisanship while behind the scenes stonewalling, hardening their resolve to obstruct all democratic policy and legislation and using the media to whine and spin false narratives to sow doubt and division. They have no creativity in their playbook and why would they—it works every time. The American people, or at least the ones who lean to the right, are just too easily manipulated and duped.

I am slowly chipping away at updating Silicon Valley to Southern Africa and plan to re-release it along with an audio version later this year. Just work that needs to be done and of course it always takes longer than expected. Work is very busy now and will remain that way until end of July. I took on managing OneStream implementation and Change Management initiative in addition to the Program Manager role. It was the right thing to do though, given the circumstances, and because the team overall is strong, it is manageable. 

Talking to myself with a dog in the house seems slightly less mad than talking to myself with no dog in the house. But it is just managing the optics. Either way I do a lot of talking to myself. And singing. 

Each day is much the same during a pandemic in the winter in Cleveland Ohio. Wake up early. Walk the dog. Coffee and newspapers. Read and write a little.  At the desk for work. Walk the dog at lunch. Snack. At the desk for work. Walk the dog. Cocktail and music. Fix and eat dinner. Watch a little Netflix. Read or write a little. Bed. Repeat. Peaceful but boring.

I’ve noticed this period has been harder on some than others. I have a couple of friends who are really struggling. One is aware of it and open and talking about it. The other is in denial. Not much I can do to help I think; except be there if they need me and reach out. We are all living with the consequences of the choices we make. It seems the ones who are most well-off are the ones who are the most out of sorts. The people in Namibia are struggling far greater than just about anyone in my ecosystem here in the US, but they are shouldering the burden in quiet stoicism. I know they say it is all relative, but perspective is also a matter of choice, and perspective alters the relative view.

The sun came out a little this weekend, but it was still very cold. The lake is frozen over now as far out as I can see. My furnace got a little slow yesterday. But nothing that a $500 emergency weekend repair could not fix. Funny how easy that money is to spend when it’s 18 degrees outside.

I heard a good new quote the other day that I think I will plagiarize. When talking about the fact that we may need to add some more people to the team to make up for some areas that are falling a bit behind, Katie was making the point that this late in the project, adding more people does not necessarily mean a linear increase in effort. And the quote she used was ‘you can’t put 9 women in a room and have a baby in a month’. A good one. 

Justine, one of our MYU alumni graduated last year with a degree from UNAM in logistics and she managed to get a position as an intern with a company in Windhoek. It is a good opportunity for her. Justine has always worked very hard and comes from a very poor household. The compensation for the internship is not enough to live on so she has come into my stable of sponsorships. But I am glad to do it—I hope it turns into a permanent position for her. 

I spent last weekend in Illinois with Brian. The new prototype is still being assembled. It always takes longer than expected. I planned that trip because it was supposed to be done last weekend before I arrived and he is still not finished. There remain some product changes and defects that need to be addressed. So…..that venture is slow and unsteady.

Visited the homestead two weekends ago. While driving around farm-country with the old man, delivering some flowers for Terri, we saw a very large dinosaur. So that seemed worthy of a picture. Fourth-n-Sunset closed on another house. That makes 3 for us–all on the same street. Yvonne will continue to live in this one.

Our little effort to bring more food and aid to the people in Mondesa continues. We now have had donations from perhaps a dozen people and Sue is busy buying the food and supplies and passing them out to the people most in need. It’s a good project and I am happy Sue is there to oversee it.

Eric, Pierre and I are each endeavoring to walk at least 100km each month. So I am upping my game a bit since it has dropped off with the adoption of Pops. He can’t walk quite that far. So I take him for a mile or so, then drop him off and put in another couple of miles on my own.

Pops is a good house-mate. Quiet and chill. We walk. Slowly. He is a mosey-er. 

No other news of note.

Humbly submitted.

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