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Fri, Jun. 9th, 2006, 08:49 am
Hopeless idealism....

This video game, which centers around feeding the poor and hungry on an imaginary island has reached four million players world wide. Not bad. They are setting up a corresponding blog so that kids (the game is mostly targeted toward children) can post questions to field workers for the United Nations World Food Program. An excellent way for kids to get a handle on the problems facing very poor countries the world over and the challenges inherent in solving those problems.

Fri, Jun. 9th, 2006 02:22 pm (UTC)

Damn cool! I'm sure it's way better than the Oregon Trail or Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego, both of which I enjoyed immensely as an 8-14 year old. :)

Fri, Jun. 23rd, 2006 01:21 pm (UTC)

Yeah, and Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego!

Fri, Jun. 16th, 2006 03:50 pm (UTC)
(Anonymous): World of . . . Foodcraft?

Responding somewhat belatedy . . .

I wouldn't necessarily say that I consider your perception of the poor to be a preconception unsupported by your own personal experience. In that regards, you surely have more experience than I. All along, however, it has been your perception (after all, 99% of experience is perception as you well know) that I would question. Keep in mind that when I speak of the "illegitimately poor" (for lack of a better word), I include under that nomenclature the idea of ancestral karma, and I'm willing to extend it was well to things such as psychological barriers and weaknesses that keep a person buried in a mire of poverty from which they would otherwise escape. The point at which we most strongly disagree (correct me if I'm wrong) has been the notion, on your part, that the system itself is imbalanced and at fault for the poverty of certain people. I find that this idea rebels against the very consistency of the universe itself (free will) in which, in order for freedom to exist, good and evil must exist side by side, with the possibility forever remaining of the choice for one or the other. Consequently, the solution lies not in "taking the choice away" per se (as an excess of socialistic programs quite effectively does) but in encouraging the right choice.

Note as well, that when I speak about poverty, I consider evidence of the lazy, the shiftless, the addicts, those with entitlement mentality to be the extreme end of a spectrum that runs the gamut from those with milder versions of dysfunction (dysfunction that still interferes with their ability to fully utlilize their gifts and abilities) to the more obvious forms of it, ie . . . drug addiction, prostitution, etc. In my opinion, everyone is a stilted genius in some regard. Part of my life's work thus far (in the past 5 years) has been to open the locked doors of my own personal genius by consistently and honestly approaching my own in-adequacies and dysfunction and dealing with "system optimization" so to speak. (Note that when speaking about poverty I am NOT including those with "disabilities", although I consider the nature of many mental disabilities, at the least, to be profoundly misunderstood by the medical community of today) We both agree that there need to be programs; we seem to disagree as to the nature of the problem and the extent to which those programs should operate.

Great about the truck driver, btw. Notice, though, that his help came from the private sector (as I'm assuming that your church is not a branch of the U.S. Government) I have no problem whatsoever with "programs". I tend, however, to prefer that they be operated by the private sector as charity work rather than by the U.S. Government as institutionalized "aid" programs. Government = bad. :0

You say potAto, I say potAto (oops, no difference) . . blah blah blah . . suffice to say, in an un-capitalistic system there is no such thing as "human CAPITAL". The utlization of human beings (whatever their status) depends solely on the system to which they are assimilated. Stop playing semantics games.

Fri, Jun. 16th, 2006 03:51 pm (UTC)
(Anonymous): Re: World of . . . Foodcraft?

Montessori . . . I'm open to ideas, of course, and I do remember you speaking of this once on our long fruitless drive to get Firefly . . however, as much as I can appreciate the effort and the meausure of understanding that recognizes a problem, I have to say that attempting to make a SYSTEM mimic an ORGANIC PROCESS never works. (see our sucess with human androids in that regard. What success? Exactly.) Ignoring the mystical element of our natures or attempting to artificially stimulate them is just another example of the same industrio-rationalistic tendencies attempting to capitalize on the relative success of the "wellness" trend away from traditional medical scientific thinking. (Which, incidentally, is why I have always had problems with things like "Baby Einstein" videos.) What happens when Western introspective rationalistic tendencies (masculine) come across Eastern, holistic thinking (feminine)? A masculinized and rationalistic system of wellness which is an oxymoron. No, my friend, I'd rather have children not attend preschool AT ALL. Or kindergarten, for that matter. The family, not the government, should be in charge of a child's learning. Granted, as the family environment will not always be ideal, or possible, in some cases, I fall on the side of privatized education (so I suppose, Montessori will do :0 )

So as far as excellence is concerned we should stoop to the lowest common denominator? Your argument regarding the prevalence (or lack thereof) of Coal Miner CEO's :) is flimsy at best. I'm surprised that someone so idealistic as far as world poverty is concerned can be such a "realist" in this matter. The fact remains that an alternative exists (however seldom used) to the "aid programs" and that it involves personal responsibility, excellence, hard work, no allowance for self-pity and affords one a certain nobility and dignity that "I got my check from Social Security" will never imbue. Where are the works of literature (fictionalized or not) that celebrate the accomplishments of those that were raised from poverty by Medicaid? Medicaid and other such programs operate with a sieve-like functionality catching those who just can't do it. Fine. But stop idealizing those people and making them into something that they are not.

Finishing (for today). I'm not one of those people who believes that values are "learned" and the ethics are "inculcated". A large portion of those presuppositions come from a religious subculture that, although barely visible today, continue to operate behind the scenes of even the most "secular" of our puruits. I believe the "law is written upon our hearts". You tell me, why is it that some of the most horribly abused become serial killers and yet others transform their lives and actually become productive members of society? Where's the mitigating factor? I've been reading back through the "Anne of Green Gables" series by LM Montgomery lately. It's an example of "beating the odds", of "conquering"-- all noble ideals to aspire to. Ntt too common, but don't you think it would be a better idea to encourage it's frequency instead of bowing to the lowest common denominator?

More later perhaps.


Fri, Jun. 23rd, 2006 03:41 pm (UTC)
callandor: Re: World of . . . Foodcraft?

Keep in mind that when I speak of the "illegitimately poor" (for lack of a better word), I include under that nomenclature the idea of ancestral karma, and I'm willing to extend it was well to things such as psychological barriers and weaknesses that keep a person buried in a mire of poverty from which they would otherwise escape.

Not sure what you mean here. If you are saying "illegitimately poor" as in have no excuse/reason to be poor, obviously, I disagree. Kids who are psychologically, sexually, and/or physically abused face problems that those who have not experienced these things do not. I'm sure you faced difficulties from whatever number your parents attempted to pull on you. Surely, however, you don't compare that to homes in which the kids are routinely told that they were not wanted, where the kids are abused by their parents or by boyfriends of the parent with the parents knowledge and consent? (I've seen several of these homes n the past six months alone). Kids who do not experience love and affirmation in their homes, especially at a young age, typically have developmental problems that interfere with their decision-making. If you ever consider adopting a child from a developing country be prepared. In some orphanages, the children are not touched much or picked up for the first few months of their lives. These kids have major behavioral problems down the road. Children are supposed to be loved and, when they aren't, the problems created run deep. Evil has been visited upon them. They must make a choice to fight against the momentum of the karma dealt to them. But, often, they need help. Those who have not had such evil visited upon them, those who have the ability, must make a choice too. We must choose to support these kids, in whatever way we can. There is a war between good and evil, and everyone must choose sides. "You're gonna have to serve somebody."

The point at which we most strongly disagree (correct me if I'm wrong) has been the notion, on your part, that the system itself is imbalanced and at fault for the poverty of certain people.

On the question of international poverty, I think it is unquestionable that the system is unbalanced, and responsible for the poverty of many. Not the only cause. But a major cause. On the issue of US poverty.....I completely agree that the poor choices of people lead many to poverty. Short term benefit over long term gain, selfish behaviors, laziness, all of these things contribute to the plight of the poor.

But, neither is that the whole story. We haven't talked as much about the elderly, who make up a surprising large percentage of the poor (no longer cared for by their families as they used to be). Nor have we discussed the working poor. My church is currently working with a family of five, a mother and four children. She works 50 hours a week but struggles to keep her head above water, financially. What I dislike about the "system" is when a company makes 4 billion dollars of profit in one quarter and decides to cut workers' health care benefits so that shareholders can make even more money. That used to be shameful behavior. Ford saw the money rolling in and decided he had an obligation to take some of these incredible amounts of money and use them for the betterment of his community and workers. His shareholders took him to court. In Japan, it is dishonorable to lay off workers. Here, it is common practice and to suggest that efforts should be made to keep your workers (when that sacrifices the shareholders bottom line) is, all too often, scorned and ridiculed. I dislike the way Capitalism treats those without power. See Factory Conditions at the Turn of the Century. These are not people who are lazy, they just don't have the "marketable skills" essential to make a decent living under the system. And the very rich shareholders and officers of these corporations are sinners. It is a sin to embrace decadence. Greed is a sin. Gluttony is a sin. Ask C.S. Lewis if you don't believe me.

(cont'd below)

Fri, Jun. 23rd, 2006 03:42 pm (UTC)
callandor: Re: World of . . . Foodcraft?

(My ideal model would be a situation in which corporations set a reasonable financial goal for the year. We aim to make enough profit that, after reinvestment, our shareholders and officers will earn, oh, let's say one million each. Plenty of money for anyone. After that, all profit is split evenly among all employees. Any corporation that adopted that model should not pay taxes.)

And, let's not forget that "the system" held a particular group of people back for decades and decades. First enslaved (how much did slavery benefit America's economic growth?), then subjected to economic slavery (sharecropping), then, left with few rights in a segregated society until the 1960s. Now, things have much improved. There is still racism in places, but the doors to economic prosperity are, generally, open. Nevertheless, the intervening time is one major reason why many blacks remain mired in poverty.

And what about karma? You think going to Africa, violently capturing human beings, subjecting them to the Middle Passage, selling them as property, and then treating them like farm animals with their loyalty obtained through brutality might have cast a karmic shadow on black people in this country? (And I am not saying that people today should feel responsible for that or that other societies have not used slavery or that many Africans were not complicit in slavery). There are black neighborhoods in America where the cops won't go at night. There are neighborhoods where you have to join a gang to survive. Violence abounds. Can you really imagine growing up in such a place? I'm not saying this means kids growing up in these environments don't have to make choices and take responsibility for the choices they make. They do. I'm not saying the community doesn't need to stop blaming the past and begin working for the future. They do. But, what I am saying is that you don't know the difficulty of the pressures these kids face. Neither do I. It wasn't as hard for you or for me. The deck is stacked against them. We need to help, to the degree we can.

That is not to say that drawing a bad hand absolves you of personal responsibility. That is not to say that you cannot escape poverty. That is not to say that personal choice doesn't play into it. But, born into a place where violence and crime are the norm, into homes where genuine love and affection are often rare commodities, where education is frowned upon...it's hard. Most of the kids who get out had a positive role model step in. A parent, a sibling, an aunt, a grandfather...a caring person from the Big Brothers Big Sisters foundation. Usually, the kids who escape the poverty that surrounds them, had help. That's all I am suggesting we do.

(cont'd below)

Fri, Jun. 23rd, 2006 03:43 pm (UTC)
callandor: Re: World of . . . Foodcraft?

What programs do I suggest? Mostly, I want to make sure of two things: 1) people have the resources to escape and 2) the basic needs of people are fulfilled. I would never support writing checks to people and expects nothing in return. I want a person working everyday, being trained in job skills and educated. Whatever you think of education you have to have some training to repair an air conditioner or fix a car. Until the system changes you need either a piece of paper or a marketable skill. I support job training, I support teaching people how to start their own businesses. I support equipping people with the skills they need to become independent. I also support withdrawing the safety net (welfare) at some point - for adults who refuse to work. At the very minimum, every person under the age of 18 (maybe 21) should have access to free health care. As noted before, I would make health care universally available because I think it good policy for a productive workforce.

As for your comment that the family should educate....your parents did such a great job? I've seen way too many homeschoolers to think the answer is simply to let the family take over. That's just one set of problems over another. There are problems with every educational model. Why not dump the abstract vagaries and tell me, practically, what your model would look like. Or don't. I don't really care. I think there are many different learning styles. Your model appears to mimic your own. I can tell you what happens when my mother, a preschool teacher who works with poor children, takes over a classroom. Usually, to begin with, the kids are badly behaved, don't want to work on things like the alphabet, and tend to act out (hitting, biting, yelling, etc). Within a few months of my mom having the class (combining a clear set of rules enforced with consistent discipline and demonstrable love and affirmation) the kids respond amazingly well. They are far better behaved and attempt to work on the lesson at hand. As they have success with the lessons they want to learn more. There are a lot of kids out their whose genius can be unlocked with a single positive role model.

As for the government thing...I think I have made clear, I don't care if the government is directly involved. Private organizations probably do the best job. So long as we can make sure that those who need the help get the help (Christian organizations often require salvation as a precondition to service) I have no problem with private organizations providing the service. I still want government funding, though. Private organizations are always stretched too thin.

Fri, Jun. 23rd, 2006 03:44 pm (UTC)
callandor: Re: World of . . . Foodcraft?

Finally, your accusation that I am playing semantics games. Allow me to suggest that either 1) you do not understand my argument or 2) you do not understand semantics. My reference to human capital is a reference to the acquired knowledge and skills of a given population; a concept that is unaltered by the system the population is assimilated into. The name may change, but the concept does not. The population still has a measurable collection of knowledge and skills, whatever you want to call it. Thus, by stating that there is no such thing as human CAPITAL in a non-capitalistic system, you are the one playing semantics games, mate.

My entire position can be boiled down to this: Not everyone starts out at the same place in life. Our souls may well be imprinted with the law of the universe, but we are also shaped by our environment. This does not absolve us of personal responsibility, but, when people are making an effort, they should be supported. Programs should be in place to equip people with skills and knowledge and support to help them lead dignified lives. They should work toward this goal. Those unwilling to work should get no assistance until they choose to. If they can't take care of their kids, the kids must be removed and placed in a loving environment. These goals should be pursued by the most efficient means possible. If that is the private sphere, fine (when can I sign you up for Big Brothers/Big Sisters by the way?). But, most likely, government funding will be necessary to make a meaningful impact.

Finally, poverty in the US ranks a distant second to my concern for international poverty. Few die of poverty related causes in America. My concern lies, primarily, for those in developing countries. I leave the domestic poverty concerns to those in and near the effected communities here in the US. If you want to continue this dialogue, why don't we shift gears and talk about the need to help the developing world?

Yours Truly