My worldview has become such a tapestry of ideas that it is becoming virtually impossible to credit everyone properly for their individual contributions to the picture. So let me just say at the outset of this essay, that most of my proposed solutions to the issues discussed in my earlier blog called, “Dumbed Down Without a Fight,” are not a result of my own original thinking.
I’m often asked for my sources because people want to read some of the books I’ve read and when possible, I disclose them. But these solutions are a compilation of three decades of living, reading and thinking and that’s a long time. So I would urge you to accept what makes sense and reject what doesn’t. Think for yourself. Don’t worry about who said what.
First, I’d like you to know my motive for writing this. I now realize that the two factors most responsible for my serenity were a direct result of nothing but luck. I am, like everyone else, a product of heredity and environment. I had absolutely no role in the selection of my parents, nor my time and place of birth. Over time, I learned to control my own choices and emotions and that ability has served me well.
Along the way, I discovered three distinct categories into which I’m certain humans fit. I call these categories IG, DG and PG.
THE IMMEDIATE GRATIFICATION CATEGORY (IG)
Immediate Gratification (IG) is the primary category because it contains as many as 75% of all human beings. Half the poor souls in this world are born into impoverished cultures where their entire lifetime focus is about finding enough food for the very next meal.
IG people on some continents have been known to engage in behavior that the rest of us can’t grasp. Some sell their children into slavery, auction off one of their own kidneys or climb on tiny makeshift rafts and risk their lives at sea, praying to reach a land of better opportunities.
They aren’t the only ones in the IG category. Those born into cultures of wealth and privilege often face the flipside problems of clinical obesity and diabetes, alcoholism and drug addiction, crime and punishment, boredom and suicide.
Throughout all human history, the manner in which IG people function has depended largely on their time and place of birth. Those born into cultures of poverty are often doomed to a life of subsistence living, that is, wandering around with wooden bowls searching for roots and grub worms to eat. Those born into cultures of plenty have to figure out how to avoid the seduction of whiskey, pastries and greasy meat. That’s been the story throughout recent history. Think about it. Today, as always, the two leading causes of premature human death are related directly to starvation or obesity depending on where IG people happen to have been born. So, that’s the first group.
Before discussing the other two, let’s examine why the world has always been in crisis mode. Rape, plunder, war, suicide and sexual abuse have always plagued us in spite of our alleged progress as civilized primates. I’m convinced that our human brain has genetically evolved to survive in immediate gratification mode because until just recently human beings have always lived in scarcity.
We know intellectually that it’s more sensible to make sacrifices and avoid the huge pitfalls of immediate gratification, yet most seem to be cognitively hardwired to be IG humans. We’ve all seen poor immigrants come to North America and work their fingers to the bone in order to create better lives than those they’ve left behind, only to have their children grow up as slackers. That’s the way it works. Those who sacrifice the most, ultimately enjoy the wealth that comes to many DG members. But that often doesn’t last for more than one or two generations.
Poor Africans and South Americans born into IG environments, have a justifiable reason for spending their lives in search of their next meal. They are IG by birth. In our world, people fully understand why it’s best to make sacrifices and delay gratification, but most can’t. We make feeble attempts like New Years resolutions, but we soon break those. By mid January everyone is right back into their overeating, over-partying, underperforming modes. Does that make them stupid? No. It makes them typical IGrs who comprise 75% of the population.
Only those willing to make sacrifices will ever escape and most people would rather risk death by answering their cell phones in traffic rather than turning off the ringer until they arrive at their destination safely. In fact, cell phones are a perfect illustration because they’re the ultimate example of predatory capitalists manipulating consumers deeper and deeper into the IG category.
It’s been estimated that 74% of Americans own and use cell phones. That’s a very close number to the estimated 75% people in category IG. Why do 26% of the people in America not own cell phones? After all, they’re so cheap that many homeless people carry them. Here’s why. The minority of people who understand the importance of prioritizing effort and sacrifice above immediate gratification will never tether themselves to a wireless feed drip of irrelevant minutiae which encourages them to be diverted from their intended objectives. Are they smarter? No. They are card-carrying members of DG and they’ve decided to self-regulate behavior. Two out of ten human beings have demonstrated that it’s possible to delay gratification and that’s category number two.
THE DELAYED GRATIFICATION CATEGORY (DG)
The second group, DG, those capable of delayed gratification, make up around 20% of the population. They are those who learn to make the sacrifices necessary today in order to enjoy the postponed cumulative benefits of tomorrow. By avoiding the seduction of immediate gratification, they hope to one day enjoy the results of their self-discipline. Many do, but many also die along the way because that’s what happens in life. We die and we have no earthly idea of when or how that’s going to happen. All we know for certain is that our odds of death are one out of one.
THE POSTHUMOUS GRATIFICATION CATEGORY (PG)
The final five percent of human beings fall into the PG category – posthumous gratification. They don’t expect to be taken seriously until long after they are dead and gone. PG humans often become experts in some narrow field or niche domain, live long enough to educate others about their chosen field, and then live out their lives on the fruits of their delayed gratification. They may become celebrities and enjoy worldly status, but that’s usually an accidental bi-product, rather than their intended objective. They do what they love in a field they enjoy and they hope that perhaps, long after their death, people will benefit from their life’s work.
Of the 5% that fall into the PG category, a small number spend their early years in IG, their middle years in DG and their final years, if they are lucky enough to be granted longevity, in PG. They differ from other PG people in two very important respects. Instead of becoming an expert in one field, they focus their spare time learning from experts in multiple disciplines. And instead of becoming celebrities, even when offered that opportunity, as many are, they choose instead to enjoy their anonymity and avoid the pitfalls of stardom. They are content to write about what they learn. They have enough self-esteem, money and time freedom to do whatever meets their needs. The last thing they are willing to do is give that all up for their proverbial fifteen minutes of fame.
Such people are not the most educated or intelligent, nor are they absent of all character defects. To suggest otherwise would be quite disingenuous because although I’m a member of this tiny minority, I’ve had to stumble through my own fair share of self-induced narcissistic dramas. While I’m fairly content today living in my own skin, that hasn’t always been the case. Even now, I realize that my decision to stay at home with the people I love where I can trout fish or paraglide daily stems primarily from selfish personal choices, rather than some deep spiritual commitment to Buddhist-like nonattachment.
And that brings me back to the motive for this essay. It’s simple. I find gratification in the knowledge that my years of research have led to some conclusions that might one day, long after I’m gone, prove not only accurate, but also beneficial.
As a minority member of the PG group, I have no delusions that what I write today will influence any significant number of my contemporaries. Beyond the usual number of kind e-mails from a handful of readers, I’m content with the simple joy of writing and the knowledge that if these solutions were implemented, they might influence the course of human events. For me, that’s motive enough.
In this, the second essay of a trilogy beginning with “Dumbed Down Without a Fight” and culminating in “Welcome to Game Internet,” I will offer smart solutions to dumb problems. I called this essay, “If I Were King” because to make these changes as a politically elected member of any Democracy would be impossible, given the huge number of special interest groups who profit directly from infomania and other forms of commercialized stupidity. Now for some solutions.
First we eliminate all lobbying of all elected officials. People should go to jail for bribery, not earn millions. If I were King, my first act would be to decree that lobbying is illegal.
Ban Pharmaceutical Advertising
Next, we ban all pharmaceutical advertising. On this entire planet only two civilized nations allow the pharmaceutical industry to advertise directly to consumers: New Zealand and The United States. There’s a good reason why 91 countries have banned such activities.
Pharmaceutical companies not only invent products that sometimes have horrible side effects or often don’t work, they also invent new diseases whenever they want to create new profit centers. “Social Anxiety Disorder,” “Restless Leg Syndrome” “ADT” B.S.!
Let’s knock off the big pharma ads. They are manipulative. The only serious virus we need to cure is mindless consumerism.
Next, we decriminalize all drugs. I don’t expect most people to know American history so permit me to point out that when heroine, marijuana and cocaine were legal in the US prior to 1914, there was far less addiction, few crimes related to drugs, and very few prisons. People simply went to their pharmacist each morning, got their drugs, then went home and caused no trouble. Today, prisons and illegal drug trafficking are two of America’s biggest growth industries, exceeded only by pornography. Police, lawyers, judges, drug cartels and terrorist organizations are making so much money that they want to hide the truth.
Here’s the truth. In every civilized nation where medical professionals legally dispense drugs to anyone who wants them, including England, crime and addiction are far lower than in the US. That cannot be debated.
Let me give you one more irrefutable fact: methadone is far stronger and lasts hours longer than heroine. Anyone in America can walk into any methadone clinic, take a simple blood test to prove that they have opiates in their blood, and pay a couple of dollars for a full day’s high. They can do that legally every day. So why don’t you ever hear about methadone addicts committing crimes? Because it’s available every day, legal and cheap. The reason such a powerful, legal and cheap opiate drug is available in every community is that there are a handful of huge pharmaceutical companies making a killing by selling a product stronger than heroine and keeping it all very quiet. It was Bayer who sold the most heroine until a few politicians decided there was a problem. There wasn’t.
Addiction levels have absolutely no relationship to drugs being legal or illegal. But if they are illegal they create massive amounts of crime and crime in America, just like pornography, is a huge growth industry. Addicts don’t commit crimes unless drugs are illegal and therefore over-priced.
Clean up the Eastern Garbage Patch
If I were King, I’d lead an initiative to clean up the Eastern Garbage patch between Japan and the United States. What’s that, you ask? It’s a swirling vortex of poisons, plastics and trash roughly twice the size of Texas, growing exponentially, and killing every living mammal, bird and plant in a several thousand-mile triangle.
You don’t hear any of the presidential candidates talking about that one, do you? Why? Because it’s going to take another 25 years to reach any shore, at which time most politicians plan to be dead. Obviously, they could care less about their grandkids or California real estate values in 2032. And by the way, why not check out Eastern Garbage Patch yourself (Google it) and read what unbiased scientists and journalists are saying.
Ban Cell Phone Usage in Vehicles
Next, I would make cell phone usage in automobiles punishable by one month in prison. Every 16 minutes, some idiot causes a cell-phone-induced traffic fatality in those nations that still allow and encourage their usage…you know, like America. It would be very easy to run a cell phone check on a driver in any accident by having police simply contact service providers to determine if any accident perpetrator was talking on a cell at the time of the accident. If they were…boom! Off to jail.
Withdraw Self-Esteem Programs from Schools
Finally, I would pull self-esteem programs out of all school systems in North America. I agree with Dr. Jean Twenge: instead of creating well-adjusted, happy children, the self-esteem movement has created an army of little narcissists.
Decades of research have shown that high self-esteem does not cause good grades or good behavior. The purpose of school is to help children learn and assist them in developing strong self-esteem through experiencing successes and bouncing back from failures.
Most of the 25 to 39 year old guys you see skateboarding around every city looking at their text message screens feel very hip. What they don’t realize is that in ten years many of them will be pushing shopping carts full of cans or waiting tables all thanks to the self-esteem movement. Many are convinced that they will become great writers or major league stars if they “Think they can.” That’s “The Secret?” Think positive thoughts, believe in yourself and get ready to claim your abundance because the whole universe is conspiring to acknowledge your greatness. Right.
Tax Junk Food
If I were King those are the first few solutions I would implement. There would be many more like a huge tax on fast food, candy and pastries so we could diminish diabetes and clinical obesity and fund universal health care.
Caps on Spending
Caps on political spending would be imposed so that many professional women could afford to run for President.
Prioritize Rebuilding New Orleans
We would abandon all space missions until we’ve rebuilt New Orleans and fed all of America’s poor children.
Eliminate Corporate Tax Loopholes
We’d eliminate all corporate tax loopholes and impose a 10% flat tax on all citizens.
Vote on Military Invasions
Military invasions of any country would require a 2/3-majority vote of all our citizens.
I could go on and on, but the reality is that I’m not King and never will be. Most primates appear to be cognitively hardwired to pursue immediate gratification and that probably won’t change. But I hope that anyone who picks up this blog two hundred years from 2009 will appreciate the fact that, although impotent and in the minority, a few folks in the 21st century were not living in denial. We saw the problems and we saw the solutions. We did our best to make the facts available to everyone, but most people were too scattered to pay attention to reality. We tried, and in our attempts to sound the alarms, we found personal contentment although the masses were too involved in the immediate gratification of digital gizmos to pay attention.
Excuse me, but I’m now leaving to go paragliding. To anyone reading this in 2200, let me explain paragliding.
“Before your great-great-great grandparents moved underground, primates used to live on the earth’s surface. Back before the comprehensive animal extinctions in the early 21st century, a decade before planetary air and water toxicity reached lethal levels, we humans actually built our homes above ground. Back then we had mountains which were real high peaks and humans could run off them with beautiful wings and soar on thermals with the eagles. What were eagles? They were huge birds who had six-foot wingspans and survived by hunting salmon. What were salmon? They were a beautiful species of fish that lived in clear water rivers and streams. What was clear water? Oh, never mind.”