Saturday, January 28, 2017

I'd rather prosecute this revolution peacefully, thank you

I eschew violence. The last time I got into fisticuffs was in high school. The problem with fighting as an adult is that I am big enough and strong enough to send someone to the hospital. Other people are also big enough to send me to the hospital. Plus, some adults pack heat and I don't want to invite any of that into my life. So I don't fight with people. I don't want to end up in the hospital and I don't want the face of someone in pain in my memory or on my conscience.

There is now open talk of revolution anywhere I care to look in social media. Protests are all over the country and although much of it is peaceful (as it should be), I still see that some people are advocating and committing violent protests. While I can understand why people might go to such lengths to effect change, we have to admit that for a long time, we've been asleep at the wheel only to find our car in the weeds.

As an example of one such advocate of violent protest, I want to direct your attention now to The Writing of John Laurits. I have nothing but admiration for this man's writing. He did a fantastic job of crunching the numbers during the primary campaign to show how Bernie Sanders could win. He is very much clued into the politics of America and understands the gravity of the situation we face now with a clear and overt oligarchy.

But, just the other day, he wrote something I cannot defend, "In defense of broken windows, property destroyed and limos set on fire". In his article, he makes it clear that somebody is telling us how to protest. Sure, there should be rules, something that says "this is off limits". But when people engage in war, they tend to forget that what they can do to others can be done to them. To his credit, he is advocating protests that just breaks things, and not to hurt people.

I'm not here to tell you how to protest. It is your right to protest. It is your right to speak your mind. I would never tell you how to do it, whatever it is you plan to do. Just remember that you have a conscience, no matter what you might think or what others might tell you. You may be protesting precisely because you do have a conscience. If you intend to break something during your protest, be aware of the sense of violation that someone else might feel as a result of your action. Know that you won't make any new friends with a path of destruction.

So before you set about your protest, you might consider, how did we get here? Look at us! We're working hard at 1, 2 or 3 jobs. We're raising kids, we're taking care of business as best as we can. We're very busy. Too busy to participate in government. If we're protesting it's probably too late, anyway. We were so busy just keeping our heads above water, that we forgot to get involved in politics. So now we think it's OK to break stuff to express our frustration?

There are consequences to everything that we do. If we break stuff, the business calls their insurance company. They fight with their insurance company to get the money needed to fix or replace their stuff. Actuaries run new risk calculations and costs go up for the business and everyone else in that neighborhood. Their prices go up. They really don't care about us because we don't care about them, so they're going raise prices on us and that's that. In the end, it's all about the money, honey.

I am only here to say that there is another way.

We are engaged in a class war. The wealthy have made war on the poor and they are winning, and they've been winning since at least 1980. This is a fight over money, time and things, and there is no love lost between the rich and the poor here. But there is a connection, however tenuous. I know a thing or two about Buddhism and particle physics and they both agree on one thing for sure. We are all connected.

In the Buddhist religion, they believe that everyone is connected. If I hurt you, I hurt me. They believe in something called Karma. What comes around goes around. If you do good, you receive good. If you do bad, oh well...

In particle physics, scientists have learned of something called entanglement. Entanglement has been observed when two new particles are created from one, going in opposite directions and when an effect is made on one of the particles, the opposite effect is made on the other particle. Scientists have found that they can act on one particle and both particles respond, simultaneously, regardless of the distance between them. The estimated speed of this interaction is something like 10,000 times the speed of light. Their best explanation for this observation is that everything is connected.

So, we can fight, but we might be hurting ourselves by fighting. I believe there is something else we can do to help ourselves and still resist the oligarchy. What I'm about to propose is a long game, but it can work. Yes, things are pretty bleak, and it looks like really urgent action is required. But there is another way to wage class war and it doesn't even have to get violent. We can focus on helping ourselves instead of hurting "them", whoever they might be.

I turn you now to this page, Getting Rich: from Zero to Hero in One Blog Post, by a man who calls himself, "Mr. Money Mustache" - great pun, did you see it? Yes, we're talking about money. But we're not talking about a lot of money, yet. I've been reading that blog and found that he's onto something. By cutting unnecessary expenses, that man got rich. He figured out how to save enough money on two ordinary incomes with his wife to retire at 30 and then have a family. By one of his estimates, he saved 66% of his gross income over 7 years enough to retire.

This is not about winning the lottery and this is not a lesson in asceticism. This just a practical guide to saving money to enjoy a decent life. I read that first page and I'm already doing just a few things that he talks about. I don't watch much TV (I've tried and even on Netflix my writing begins to wither). I don't have cable. I don't do Starbucks. I bag my lunch for work. We don't eat out much. I don't have unsecured debt. I have no student loans (I have a GED and some college). I have managed to parlay what I've saved into a house, made improvements on that house and traded up. I did it on one income, and my wife stays at home to mind the kids.

I don't make a ton of money, but what I did can happen for you. To us. And we can do what Mr. Money Mustache did, too. I strongly encourage you to read that blog post (but don't stop there, he has many more), and don't miss this little nugget:
The bottom line is this: by focusing on happiness itself, you can lead a much better life than those who focus on convenience, luxury, and following the lead of the financially illiterate herd that is the TV-ad-absorbing Middle Class of the United States (and other rich countries) today. Happiness comes from many sources, but none of these sources involve car or purse upgrades.
I kid you not, that is me. I've been focused more on happiness than money. I cringe at the thought of spending money on a shiny new TV or computer or some other do-dad. I'm a techie, so I admire those OLED TVs in Best Buy, but I know how I feel after I buy something, so I save for what I really want and stop there.

I've been thinking about this for a long, long time. On September 30th, 2008, I wrote this article, The Cash Society. Here is the nugget:
Imagine a parallel universe where you have a year of expenses saved up. Now you can kiss your boss goodbye (ew!) on good terms, and take your time finding the job you want. Or you can take a month off to reassess your direction in life. Whatever. You have a contingency fund to handle most small emergencies, too. With a year of expenses in the bank, the bank wants you to stick around. Like I said - it's a parallel universe.
What happened on September 30th, 2008? Every too-big-to-fail bank had stock that was worthless. That was the day that the financial community made a very public admission that they missed the housing bubble. Then the government helped the banks not the people. Cute.

Since I wrote that article, I've been thinking about how to get to that point, the point of having a year of expenses saved up. I've already made some good starts and will continue to find other ways to save money. It seems like such a small thing, but I believe that Mr. Money Mustache has laid out a framework for a peaceful financial revolution that most people can follow.

Imagine what could happen when a hundred million working Americans decide to stop going out to eat. To bag their lunch every day at work. To cut the cord to cable. To doff their cell phone subscriptions (I haven't done that yet, but I'm thinking about a way to do it). What happens to the very wealthy when 100 million working Americans find a way to save more than half of their income and still be happy and healthy? I don't know, but I would love to find out.

If 100 million working Americans saved up a year of expenses or more, we are far more likely to have the time to get involved in politics. We can show up at the meetings, the elections, the hearings and other government functions where decisions are made that can have an enormous impact on our lives - long before we need to protest any adverse decision. We can choose our jobs. When we change our behavior, the oppressors have no choice but to change theirs. And since we're just saving our money, we don't go to jail and we get $200 when we pass Go.

Inequality is just another form of voter suppression. Now there is something we can do about it. We can get conscious about how we spend our money, save it and deny the oppressors of that money and more importantly, at least some of their control over us, or we can protest. It really is up to us. We had the power the whole time. We just didn't know it.
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