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  • Dr. Ted Klontz

What's Going On? II of II

“And the desire for gold is not for gold, it is but a desire for freedom of choice”

The Bernie and Donald phenomena comes from the same general area of our natural programming that I spoke of last month in my blog, “What’s Going On Part I”. As I mentioned then, the software of our brain, the most dominant part, the part of us that subconsciously controls most of our behaviors, the part that hasn’t received a programming update for 150,000 years. The millions who have rallied around Bernie and Donald, the people who follow them, believe that they have been grossly deceived and betrayed by the dominant culture, the current power structure. The current system. They believe that they have been made promises that have, from their perspective, been reneged on. That things are grossly unfair.

For example, they were told that if they got a college education, they would be able to get a good job and be able to live a good life. They could create their very own American Dream. They believe, and have experienced, however, that that has not been true. Many of them have very easily (encouraged to, made it easy to do) incurred significant student loans that they cannot pay off because they can't find a job that provides enough money to do so. These loans, cannot and will not ever be forgiven. Whether the person can pay for them or not. No matter what the circumstances. Bankruptcy or any other financial conditions will never allow those debts to be forgiven.

Meanwhile, they see major corporations and municipalities, who with government assistance, and legal support, declare bankruptcy, and the financial commitments they made to retirees, for example, can be forgiven, and the retirees get pennies on the dollar if anything at all. It could be argued that both the student loan beneficiaries and General Motors made dumb, ill-informed choices or were the victims of the unexpected, but both are not treated equally.

So, we go back to the "if it doesn't feel fair, I may act in a way where I get nothing but at least you don't either." Last month, we talked about the classic experiment that suggests that I will sacrifice getting something, just to keep you from getting, what to me feels an unfair share. If I gave you $100, and told you that you had to share it with another person, and you could determine how much of the $100 you gave them, and that the only condition being was that the other person would had to agree to accept or not accept (no bargaining, you get to make only one offer) what you offered to give them, the further away, in your favor, your offer was from a $50-$50, split, the more likely they would refuse the deal, and thus lose whatever you we're going to give them. For example if you said I'll keep $70 you get $30, the average person would say "no" which would mean they don't get the $30 and you don't get $70 even though $30 is more than they would've had if you would've offered them nothing. Why? Because the $30 person has the power to make things 'fair', and equal. You get nothing, they get nothing. You don't get to lord your power over them. They get to demonstrate their power over you. We are wired (genetically speaking) as human beings to believe that we must have fairness and equality to be able to safe and ultimately survive. As mentioned last month, this experiment has been repeated in some form all across the globe with exactly the same results.

"Let's elect someone who will change things”. “So what if they destroy something that isn’t working for me anyway?”

There are apparently millions of folks who are in that place.

There has been lots of talking the last few years about the gap between the haves and have-nots. Many really smart people have spoken about how this is an unsustainable condition. I believe we are close to that “unsustainable”, pot boiling over, maybe even “pressure cooker exploding” moment. Thus the Donald and Bernie phenomena. Our canary in the coal mine? We have been here before. It wasn’t pretty. At one point in our country, the very wealthiest paid no taxes. There was a near revolution, literally. Thousands of people took to the streets during the 1920s and 30s and change occurred. Again with profoundly deep and significant amounts of violence. The organized labor movement is but one example of who, how and where this violence and change manifested itself.

As a result of such an awakening of sorts, the wealthiest paid income taxes of 80% to 90%, and the gap was reduced.

That has been changing back to the point where once again, the very wealthiest individuals and corporations, if they want to, can maneuver the system to pay little to no taxes. I think we are close to that tipping point regarding this gap.

I am one of the "haves". 47% of all Americans today would have to borrow, (using a credit card that I can’t completely pay off at the end of the month in these situations is ‘borrowing’), or sell something to cover a $400.00 unexpected expense.

Here is what the research tells me that my being one of the "haves" means.

It means I am stingier towards, more blind to and less helpful of the have-nots. That's what "having" does to us humans, whether we want to "own" it or not. That's what the science says.

An experiment done many times with children as young as THREE-years old, around the world with the same results shows that just touching money (the kids played a game two ways, using money as tokens or regular monopoly kind of tokens, and after the game was over, one if the experimenters would purposely drop items and ask for help in picking them up) made the kids significantly less helpful than if they had played the game with regular tokens and the kids didn't even know, consciously what money was. The same type of experiment has been done with adults with the same results.

And, I firmly believe I am a part of the problem. I am white, male, education, wealth, health, legally, privileged. I have only a vague awareness of what that means. I have absolutely NO idea what it's like to drive to work being black. I have no idea what it's like to not know what I am going to feed my kids every meal, every day. I have NO idea what it's like to be seen (in our culture) as less than, because I'm a female.

I can intellectually "know". I can and have had moments of being discriminated against and experienced moments of fear, even terror, just because I am white, a man, of being ridiculed or mocked for being educated or a person of wealth. If I'm treated that way, I just go somewhere else. But for the people I'm saying who are the most upset, who live with that level of fear and lack of acceptance every moment of every day, there is no “somewhere” else for them to go.

If I'm black and I have money, it's easier. If I am a Muslim and you can't tell, it's easier. Why does this happen? What's the role of the 150,000 (non -updated) brain here? It says anyone I don't know very well who looks, talks, smells, dances, walks and dresses, acts, or believes differently than me is a threat to me and my family's existence. This part of my brain is where my "isms" live (racism, sexism, ageism, genderism, etc.) and prejudices live. Back then all those things listed above more likely than not meant very bad news. It meant that we were under direct threat of being captured and if that happened really bad stuff was going to happen. That wiring is still there. It is still dominant. It is ever-present. To the degree that I deny, pretend or am not aware of these parts of me, I'm a very dangerous man.

I mentioned last time that there is a societal pot that’s boiling over. We see it in civil unrest here and abroad. Part of the contents of this pot is the "stuff" that the have -nots "see". The "stuff", is the inequities. They can see this inequity more acutely than ever before thanks to our unparalleled access to information our world media offers.

George Bernard Shaw once said “The lack of money is the root of all evil.” At first I laughed when I ran across this unique twist. The more I think about it the less funny and more true it seems.

This is what, from where I sit, is happening on the world stage also. That's what was behind the "Arab Spring" movement.

The "haves" can't see. We can’t understand and remain so puzzled by all of this. This is my answer to “What’s Going On”.

The one bit of good news is that I like to believe that when we "haves" can see, truly see, when we "get it", we can't help but do the right thing. I've seen it. I've done it myself. It's just that we can't really see very well. Historically that's documentable.

Since I think I see the problem, (the huge gap between the have and have-nots) as Einstein said, if I'm not a part of the solution I AM a part of the problem. What can one solitary person, someone like me, do with this awareness?

For now, here is what I'm doing.

  • Talking about it out loud, like I’m doing with you, understanding that in doing so I will alienate some of the people who "thought they knew me" and I'll run the risk of being marginalized and dismissed as I have been by people when they didn't want to hear my truth and experience as it applied to them and their lives (even though sometimes they hired me to do so).

  • To be fair to them, this may very well be a different me they are seeing. Now that I can see differently it's a different world than I thought it was.

  • Increase my exposure to people different than me. In every way possible. In person, the written word, TV…. A simple and powerful antidote to my “ism” disease. They become more and more a part of my “tribe”, and my ancient brain is not automatically frightened into ill-advised and damaging action.

  • I have made a commitment to look every homeless person I walk past on the sidewalk in the eyes instead of pretending they are not there. To remind myself of the have/have not gap between me and them. And give them some money no matter what.

  • I'm tipping my "servants" more. My restaurant servers, waiters, bus boys, hotel maids, etc. All to remind myself of the gap. If I can't afford that, then I won't engage my version of a private chef and wait staff and ask them to subsidize my life style. In other words I won't go out to eat.

  • I'm going to continue to give money to those people that am moved to support, whether I get a tax break or not. They will not be required to demonstrate a level of accountability. I don't require that of myself, or my family. What gives me the right to set conditions on my "gift" to them? If I have to, it's not a gift, it's a business deal. I'm the banker, they are the borrower. That maintains the gap.

  • I'm going to continue to try figure out how to give more from my essence than from my excess. I'm not so sure that giving from my excess is actually 'giving' anyway. I'm going to continue/increase the amount of pro bono work that I do.

  • What kind of real difference will these somewhat pathetic responses make? Very little. But I like this quote from Gandhi: Whatever you do in life will be insignificant, but it is important to do it anyway”

What do you believe?

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