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Archive for March, 2019

Transformational Ideas in the Era of Social Change and the Upcoming Presidential Election

Seeing Society through the Crystal-Ball of Ideas

 

Introduction

I’m feeling a little bit overwhelmed these days during this political season. This is because there are so many candidates running for the Office of the President of the United States. At last count there were potentially 24 democratic candidates (some declared and some not), five or more independents, and potentially several Republicans ready to challenge Donald Trump in 2020.

So how does one decide who to vote for in the next election when there are so many candidates? What criteria does one use to make sound judgments? It is a daunting task, especially if one wants to do diligence and cares about our democracy. So, what do you do?

Many factors may guide you (e.g., party affiliation, values, facts on issues, beliefs, prejudice, social pressure, past history of voting or lack thereof, what your significant other(s) may think, etc.). However, voting is, for the most part, a solitary decision. So once you’re in that polling booth or filling out a form at home, the question still remains—what do you do?

In order to answer this question one needs to take a long term and wide view at politicians and their promises in addition to culture, society and the individual. Each individual operates in his/her own realm of individuality and consciousness. That realm is mostly in the present, the here and now, where immediate needs play our center stage of concern. We all have needs every moment of every day. But voting should be an activity that transcends the present. One needs to look beyond his/her immediate environment, and think about the future needs of others, not just oneself.

Sociology I-A

While our immediate daily needs are important to meet, the act of Voting is more than this, or should be. Voting is a statement of desired direction, a kind of non-descript message to a culture and society bigger than ourselves. We are all trying to say with our vote, “You better wake up and pay attention.” Well, you say wake up and pay attention, but what you really mean is—You want change, however ill-defined and nebulous at that moment it might be.

If you’re conservative you’re probably thinking to yourself—change for what? The conservative mindset is very troubled these days. Conservatives prefer no change to society most of the time, despite a long history of change they have also benefitted from. Nevertheless, they are all fearful of a changing world and landscape they do not understand or control anymore. They dwell psychologically in a constant state of perpetual uncertainty and many have secretly underlying doubts and misapprehensions about their own beliefs.

Most conservatives are white. Most sociologists suspect that the underlying concern of not wanting things to change is the irrational fear of “White Fright-White Flight.” While there are interesting sociological questions ahead to be answered, like will America become more harmonious, less violent and less group oriented, once there is real equality when only minorities (including a white minority) will make up America? That discussion is for a latter Blog. While such a question is titillating to the academic community, there is still an irrational fear on the part of conservatives that the sky is falling all around them. And that intense fear translates into blaming all others for their own short-comings in life.

The driving force in culture (defined as our learned behavior patterns) and society is for change, or a desire for no change. It is predicated on values and value judgments. Change does not create value judgment per se, only people do. Some may argue that value judgments are a product of early childhood experiences in growing up in small social unit or group like the family. And it is true that by age 25 most of our personal beliefs and values are firmly lodged in “social concrete.” But as people become adults, larger social forces begin to enter their lives and influence them. I’m being polite. Let’s call it what it is—Social Control.

What is Change Anyway?

Observing change is simply a perception of difference in our physical and mental environment. It is a catchword used to describe movement in time. Either something occurs or it doesn’t. That is the nexus of change that connects the past to the present and the present to the future.

But when we talk about social change, and its importance, we’re really talking about value judgments and ideology directed by something very specific. Society doesn’t always change because one holds value judgments; society changes because of something very specific. Change for change sake is unto itself—meaningless.

What are those specifics? They are ideas folks. Ideas move society. Ideas move individuals. Ideas, and their formulation, are the real basis for social change in society. Value judgments and ideology may still play a role in evaluating what is a “good” idea from a “bad” idea. But ideas turned into actions are what ultimately will lead to social change.

     So, if good ideas are the real pathway to social change, why then aren’t there more of them? I don’t know. My theory is that it takes real effort to come up with good ideas. Most people would prefer to be lazy and rest, not on their laurels per se, but rather depend on their value judgments alone.

     However, sometimes politicians are capable of creating and coming up with good ideas. Ahead you’ll hear about one candidate for the highest office who has the best most transformational ideas at this point in time, and has done his/her homework.

     The best political presentations, by the way, are well crafted when they collectively incorporate transformational ideas, values, and facts and describe issues with the precision of a jeweler’s eye. That kind of political presentation gives a more complete and total picture from which to make choices or judgments.

Read on.

It is ideas that propel what we call change. But ideas are not all alike in nature. Some ideas are rather ordinary, while other ideas can be transformational.

Transformational Ideas

When I talk about ideas in the context above, I’m not referring to everyday or ordinary ideas that lead to human decisions of little relevance, such as making decisions as to what car to buy or what neighborhood to buy a home in.

Transformational ideas by comparison to ordinary ones, can and do affect the lives of large numbers of people, or even an entire nation. They have a much bigger impact on society; they generate real currency value in any society.

Transformational ideas are what you need to look for in a candidate for public office, especially the Office of President of the United States.

Warning: If a candidate talks about issues, that is fine. But if their stock answer is—we need to change—but solutions are absent in the presentation, you might take that as a sign that the candidate for office really has not thought about the issue(s) very deeply.

We all know talk is cheap, but actionable ideas require planning and insight. Said again, transformational ideas have great value when they are highly specific, not obtuse statements lacking specificity or time frames. Otherwise, you as a voter are passing off “bullshit” for insight. Don’t be misled by the politics of obfuscation in political speeches whenever, wherever, and by whom it comes from. Listen carefully to what is being said. I know this requires effort on your part, but who you vote for really matters.

Another way politicians obfuscate their presentation is they constantly dwell on “values rather than facts.” Value statements are fine because values reinforce what they believe you care about. Politicians on the left and the right do this all the time. They know voters are influenced more by their values than by facts alone. Just be careful not to get caught up in the emotion candidates like to drum up.

People can get quite emotional about their values. We’ve seen this idea of values and emotions when they merge into a lethal combination that leads to hatred expressed, and violence carried out, at political rallies. You may agree or disagree with their statements, but you are the one who ultimately must decide who to vote for.

I’m not so naïve as to think that the masses of voters in our country will be astute enough to decipher “bullshit” from well-thought-out analytical assessments of political candidates. If this were not the case, then the country might not have elected a mentally and socially challenged degenerate president in 2016.

A lot of time remains before November 2020. Nevertheless, many democratic candidates have announced their candidacies. I’ve made it my personal duty to listen intently to first campaign speeches because they tend to set the tone for what is important to each candidate. Who I will actually vote for in 2020 will have to wait until I have a clear idea of the transformational ideas, if any, from all the candidates regardless of party.

Nevertheless, right now my analysis has led me back to whom I supported during the 2016 campaign season. I’ll keep this a secret for now and let you guess. This candidate, in my opinion, already has a plethora of transformational ideas. These ideas I like.

I want to make two things perfectly clear at the onset. I like, with one exception, all the democratic candidates this year running for the Office of the President of the United States. I say Kudos to Corry Booker, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren. They are all worthy candidates and decent human beings. There are other democratic candidates running for president and may be just as worthy. We as citizens just need to get to know them a little better.

The second point I want to make is this: It is a myth that conservatives don’t care for social change. They do and especially when it benefits them personally. Does anyone really think conservatives in Congress today would sponsor a bill to overturn the 1935 Social Security Act? I think not! They pay into the social security system just like everyone else. Social security was a profound social change to this country (transformational) and it is now 84 years old.

Now that conservatives have daughters playing organized sports in grammar school, high school and college, do you really think they want to go backwards in time when all the money went to just male sports teams? I think not.

Virtually every good thing that has ever been passed into law since our nation’s inception has also benefitted conservatives as much as the rest of society. They basically enjoy things now they themselves may have originally opposed. That makes them the most disingenuous hypocritical mental slackers ever to inhabit our great nation. Someday, I’ll tell you what I really think of them!

As I have now redundantly said, conservatives embrace change in their own lives when it benefits them. But their eternal characteristic is just the fact that they have the nasty propensity to deny, unwittingly or otherwise, others their rights to the good life. Just like everyone else Conservatives are the type of people who always book a flight on a plane whose destination is the future. Problem is—once onboard that flight, they just don’t seem to want anyone else sitting next to them.

A Candidate with Transformational ideas

This shouldn’t be a difficult test for you to identify the candidate I am supporting at the moment. This particular candidate announced his/her candidacy within the last two months. In his/her opening speech issues, facts, reinforcing values and transformational ideas were all presented. This candidate is the complete package for integrity, likeability, insight and comprehensive vision and understanding.

The clock is ticking now. Let’s see how long it takes you to figure who I am talking about. The following is a listing of the transformational ideas, issue statements and value statements made by this candidate.

“When we are in the White House, we will attack the problem of urban gentrification and build the affordable housing our nation desperately needs.”

“We are not going to cut Social Security benefits. We are going to expand them.”

“Yes. We will pass a Medicare for all single-payer program.”

“We intend to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel and into energy efficiency and sustainable energy and, in the process, create millions of good paying jobs.”

“Today we say to the American people that we will rebuild our crumbling infrastructure: our roads, our bridges, our rail system and subways, our water systems and wastewater plants and our airports-and when we do that we create up to 13 million good paying jobs.”

“Today we say to the parents in this country that you and your kids deserve quality, affordable childcare. The children are our future; they deserve the best possible head start in life with a high quality, universal pre-K program.”

“Good jobs require a good education. That is why we are going to make public colleges and universities tuition free, and substantially lower the outrageous student debt that currently exists.”

“Today, we say to our senior citizens, that we understand you cannot live in dignity when you are trying to survive on $13,000 or $14,000 a year in Social Security Benefits. My Republican colleagues want to cut Social Security Benefits but we have some bad news for them. We’re not going to cut Social Security benefits. We are going to expand them.

“We are going to provide legal status to the 1.8 million young people eligible for the DACA program, and develop a humane border policy for those who seek asylum. No more snatching babies from the arms of their mothers.”

“We will move aggressively to end the epidemic of gun violence in this country and pass the common sense gun safety legislation that the overwhelming majority of Americans want.”

Final Observations

Bernie Sanders launched his initial speech in Brooklyn New York on March 2, 2019 (if you haven’t figured out whom I was referring to by now).

Bernie Sanders has lots of other ideas that are transformational. But I wanted to convey to you most of the really good ideas. The interesting thing about a lot of politicians on both sides of the aisle is that few ever tell us how they are going to pay for their intended legislation. Bernie however, does tell us how he is going to pay for his transformational ideas. He’ll tax the very rich and the super-rich or the top 1% of Americans who own 50% of the wealth in this country.

As Bernie said on March 2, 2019:

“no, we will no longer stand idly by and allow 3 people in this country to own more wealth than the bottom half of America while, at the same time, over 20 percent of our children live in poverty, veterans sleep out on the streets and seniors cannot afford their prescription drugs. We will no longer accept 46 percent of al new income going to the top 1 %, while millions of Americans are forced to work 2 or 3 jobs just to survive and over half of our people live paycheck to paycheck frightened to death about what happens to them financially if their car breaks down or their child becomes sick. Today, we fight for a political revolution.”

Other candidates on the democratic side have ideas as well. Even a few Republicans have a few good ideas. But unfortunately, Republicans in a political environment doesn’t lend itself to getting things done. Just like the Freedom Caucus among the larger body of Republicans in Congress they get nothing done and have certainly earned the reputation as the party of “NO.”

Trust me! When Bernie’s transformational ideas eventually come to fruition, Republicans will be first in line (hat in hand) with glassy eyes, like an exuberant panting little puppy (and not so cute), begging for their fair share of society’s benefits.

One other issue does deserve some discussion, but will have to wait for a future Blog. Fear mongering is the stock and trade of the Republican Party these days. Now they want you to tremble in your shoes because Bernie Sanders is a Democratic Socialist. Somehow that label foretells doom and gloom. This is, of course, total nonsense. Democratic Socialism is a good thing not a bad thing.

In a future Blog I will explore this false narrative promoted by the Republican Party in more detail. I will discuss Socialism and Democratic Socialism and how they differ. I will also explore both the strengths and weaknesses of Capitalism and suggest to you how merging two different underlying philosophies and economic systems just might produce the best of all worlds. There are no perfect economic systems in the world. Who knows perhaps merging just might be a Transformational Idea people in society can get behind and really embrace?

 

Just like Paul Harvey would end his famous newscasts (1952-2008) I say to you—“Now you know the rest of the story and Good Day!”

 

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