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The Demoralized Mind

Western consumer culture is creating a psycho-spiritual crisis that leaves us disoriented and bereft of purpose. How can we treat our sick culture and make ourselves well?

By John F Schumaker

May 13, 2016 "Information Clearing House" - Our descent into the Age of Depression seems unstoppable. Three decades ago, the average age for the first onset of depression was 30. Today it is 14. Researchers such as Stephen Izard at Duke University point out that the rate of depression in Western industrialized societies is doubling with each successive generational cohort. At this pace, over 50 per cent of our younger generation, aged 18-29, will succumb to it by middle age. Extrapolating one generation further, we arrive at the dire conclusion that virtually everyone will fall prey to depression.

By contrast to many traditional cultures that lack depression entirely, or even a word for it, Western consumer culture is certainly depression-prone. But depression is so much a part of our vocabulary that the word itself has come to describe mental states that should be understood differently. In fact, when people with a diagnosis of depression are examined more closely, the majority do not actually fit that diagnosis. In the largest study of its kind, Ramin Mojtabai of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health sampled over 5,600 cases and found that only 38 per cent of them met the criteria for depression.

Contributing to the confusion is the equally insidious epidemic of demoralization that also afflicts modern culture. Since it shares some symptoms with depression, demoralization tends to be mislabelled and treated as if it were depression. A major reason for the poor 28-per-cent success rate of anti-depressant drugs is that a high percentage of ‘depression’ cases are actually demoralization, a condition unresponsive to drugs.
Existential disorder

In the past, our understanding of demoralization was limited to specific extreme situations, such as debilitating physical injury, terminal illness, prisoner-of-war camps, or anti-morale military tactics. But there is also a cultural variety that can express itself more subtly and develop behind the scenes of normal everyday life under pathological cultural conditions such as we have today. This culturally generated demoralization is nearly impossible to avoid for the modern ‘consumer’.

Rather than a depressive disorder, demoralization is a type of existential disorder associated with the breakdown of a person’s ‘cognitive map’. It is an overarching psycho-spiritual crisis in which victims feel generally disoriented and unable to locate meaning, purpose or sources of need fulfilment. The world loses its credibility, and former beliefs and convictions dissolve into doubt, uncertainty and loss of direction. Frustration, anger and bitterness are usual accompaniments, as well as an underlying sense of being part of a lost cause or losing battle. The label ‘existential depression’ is not appropriate since, unlike most forms of depression, demoralization is a realistic response to the circumstances impinging on the person’s life.

As it is absorbed, consumer culture imposes numerous influences that weaken personality structures, undermine coping and lay the groundwork for eventual demoralization. Its driving features – individualism, materialism, hyper-competition, greed, over-complication, overwork, hurriedness and debt – all correlate negatively with psychological health and/or social wellbeing. The level of intimacy, trust and true friendship in people’s lives has plummeted. Sources of wisdom, social and community support, spiritual comfort, intellectual growth and life education have dried up. Passivity and choice have displaced creativity and mastery. Resilience traits such as patience, restraint and fortitude have given way to short attention spans, over-indulgence and a masturbatory approach to life.

Research shows that, in contrast to earlier times, most people today are unable to identify any sort of philosophy of life or set of guiding principles. Without an existential compass, the commercialized mind gravitates toward a ‘philosophy of futility’, as Noam Chomsky calls it, in which people feel naked of power and significance beyond their conditioned role as pliant consumers. Lacking substance and depth, and adrift from others and themselves, the thin and fragile consumer self is easily fragmented and dispirited.

By their design, the central organizing principles and practices of consumer culture perpetuate an ‘existential vacuum’ that is a precursor to demoralization. This inner void is often experienced as chronic and inescapable boredom, which is not surprising. Despite surface appearances to the contrary, the consumer age is deathly boring. Boredom is caused, not because an activity is inherently boring, but because it is not meaningful to the person. Since the life of the consumer revolves around the overkill of meaningless manufactured low-level material desires, it is quickly engulfed by boredom, as well as jadedness, ennui and discontent. This steadily graduates to ‘existential boredom’ wherein the person finds all of life uninteresting and unrewarding.

Moral net

Consumption itself is a flawed motivational platform for a society. Repeated consummation of desire, without moderating constraints, only serves to habituate people and diminish the future satisfaction potential of what is consumed. This develops gradually into ‘consumer anhedonia’, wherein consumption loses reward capacity and offers no more than distraction and ritualistic value. Consumerism and psychic deadness are inexorable bedfellows.

Individualistic models of mind have stymied our understanding of many disorders that are primarily of cultural origin. But recent years have seen a growing interest in the topic of cultural health and ill-health as they impact upon general wellbeing. At the same time, we are moving away from naïve behavioural models and returning to the obvious fact that the human being has a fundamental nature, as well as a distinct set of human needs, that must be addressed by a cultural blueprint.

In his groundbreaking book The Moral Order, anthropologist Raoul Naroll used the term ‘moral net’ to indicate the cultural infrastructure that is required for the mental wellbeing of its members. He used numerous examples to show that entire societies can become predisposed to an array of mental ills if their ‘moral net’ deteriorates beyond a certain point. To avoid this, a society’s moral net must be able to meet the key psycho-social-spiritual needs of its members, including a sense of identity and belonging, co-operative activities that weave people into a community, and shared rituals and beliefs that offer a convincing existential orientation.

We are long overdue a cultural revolution that would force a radical revamp of the political process, economics, work, family and environmental policy

Similarly, in The Sane Society, Erich Fromm cited ‘frame of orientation’ as one of our vital ‘existential needs’, but pointed out that today’s ‘marketing characters’ are shackled by a cultural programme that actively blocks fulfilment of this and other needs, including the needs for belonging, rootedness, identity, transcendence and intellectual stimulation. We are living under conditions of ‘cultural insanity’, a term referring to a pathological mismatch between the inculturation strategies of a culture and the intrapsychic needs of its followers. Being normal is no longer a healthy ambition.

Human culture has mutated into a sociopathic marketing machine dominated by economic priorities and psychological manipulation. Never before has a cultural system inculcated its followers to suppress so much of their humanity. Leading this hostile takeover of the collective psyche are increasingly sophisticated propaganda and misinformation industries that traffic the illusion of consumer happiness by wildly amplifying our expectations of the material world. Today’s consumers are by far the most propagandized people in history. The relentless and repetitive effect is highly hypnotic, diminishing critical faculties, reducing one’s sense of self, and transforming commercial unreality into a surrogate for meaning and purpose.

The more lost, disoriented and spiritually defeated people become, the more susceptible they become to persuasion, and the more they end up buying into the oversold expectations of consumption. But in unreality culture, hyper-inflated expectations continually collide with the reality of experience. Since nothing lives up to the hype, the world of the consumer is actually an ongoing exercise in disappointment. While most disappointments are minor and easy to dissociate, they accumulate into an emotional background of frustration as deeper human needs get neglected. Continued starvation of these needs fuels disillusion about one’s whole approach to life. Over time, people’s core assumptions can become unstable.

Culture proofing

At its heart, demoralization is a generalized loss of credibility in the assumptions that ground our existence and guide our actions. The assumptions underpinning our allegiance to consumerism are especially vulnerable since they are fundamentally dehumanizing. As they unravel, it becomes increasingly difficult to identify with the values, goals and aspirations that were once part of our consumer reality. The consequent feeling of being forsaken and on the wrong life track is easily mistaken for depression, or even unhappiness, but in fact it is the type of demoralization that most consumer beings will experience to some degree.

For the younger generation, the course of boredom, disappointment, disillusion and demoralization is almost inevitable. As the products of invisible parents, commercialized education, cradle-to-grave marketing and a profoundly boring and insane cultural programme, they must also assimilate into consumer culture while knowing from the outset that its workings are destroying the planet and jeopardizing their future. Understandably, they have become the trance generation, with an insatiable appetite for any technology that can downsize awareness and blunt the emotions. With society in existential crisis, and emotional life on a steep downward trajectory, trance is today’s fastest-growing consumer market.

Once our collapsed assumptions give way to demoralization, the problem becomes how to rebuild the unconscious foundations of our lives. In their present forms, the psychology and psychiatry professions are of little use in treating disorders that are rooted in culture and normality. While individual therapy will not begin to heal a demoralized society, to be effective such approaches must be insight-oriented and focused on the cultural sources of the person’s assumptions, identity, values and centres of meaning. Cultural deprogramming is essential, along with ‘culture proofing’, disobedience training and character development strategies, all aimed at constructing a worldview that better connects the person to self, others and the natural world.

The real task is somehow to treat a sick culture rather than its sick individuals. Erich Fromm sums up this challenge: ‘We can’t make people sane by making them adjust to this society. We need a society that is adjusted to the needs of people.’ Fromm’s solution included a Supreme Cultural Council that would serve as a cultural overseer and advise governments on corrective and preventive action. But that sort of solution is still a long way off, as is a science of culture change. Democracy in its present guise is a guardian of cultural insanity.

We are long overdue a cultural revolution that would force a radical revamp of the political process, economics, work, family and environmental policy. It is true that a society of demoralized people is unlikely to revolt even though it sits on a massive powder keg of pent-up frustration. But credibility counteracts demoralization, and this frustration can be released with immense energy when a credible cause, or credible leadership, is added to the equation.

It might seem that credibility, meaning and purposeful action would derive from the multiple threats to our safety and survival posed by the fatal mismatch between consumer culture and the needs of the planet. The fact that it has not highlights the degree of demoralization that infects the consumer age. With its infrastructure firmly entrenched, and minimal signs of collective resistance, all signs suggest that our obsolete system – what some call ‘disaster capitalism’ – will prevail until global catastrophe dictates for us new cultural directions.

John F Schumaker is a retired psychology academic living in Christchurch, New Zealand/Aotearoa.

This column was published in the April 2016 issue of New Internationalist. - See more at:
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It took me about a week and a half to finally get an old music site I used to scrub my data from their servers. They had been bought out by CBS, had changed most of their site format, and had made it impossible to edit or remove anything you had at one time added - including music, imagery, or text. Unfortunately, of two hits on google for my real name, this site's wiki was one of them - and it was not necessarily text I'd want a potential employer reading or using against me later. So, after numerous emails and some complaining on social media, I finally got the attention of someone who took care of it. There was a whole album of music free for download, too - not that I really care or anything - but the idea that I couldn't scrub that data myself was pretty annoying. So many new social media sites have a similar setup, though - they write into their TOS agreements that they, one way or another, own some exclusive rights to whatever it is you add, and that they do in fact have the choice to keep data or even use it for revenue - even if you don't want them to. Soundcloud has very similar disclaimers, but there's really nowhere else to store music anymore. Not that I've written anything worth showing to the world in a couple years, anyway.

Today was the last day my application at United was active. Now, to be fair, I had given up on thinking I would get a call after about the first two weeks - because it's very uncommon for a business to wait that long - but somewhere at the back of my mind, I figured that there was still some chance. I guess not.

I did not reapply today. I'm not sure I will - even though I'd probably have a better chance given how many they hired last month (and interviewed in April.) The truth is, I really was never happy there. I probably would never be happy there - even if it kept my finances in great shape. There were times where I was ambivalent, more or less, but never really happy. I could say the same about any other job I ever had. I'm not even convinced that there is a job I *can* be happy with - I get bored easily, I'm not sure any jobs that I'm qualified for would be any different, and I'm definitely not prone to favors from management, so expecting to move into something more meaningful is pointless.

Side note: I think the environment down there was quite abusive, and I think I had to abandon a large part of my real self just to fit in and get by without too much trouble. Thinking back to my mindset before I started there - what was driving me - the passion I had for some things - there's not much of that left now. I feel like I had to acclimate to an environment that was harsh, unforgiving and at times, dangerous, and lost a great deal of my self because of that. Not sure I can actually get that back - not sure I'd even want to - but I certainly feel kinda hollow anymore. There's a real lack of passion and goals within me - I don't really feel like anything is driving me anymore - and I'm really not sure that's necessarily a good thing. Then again, what are goals in a world like this - this is not some ideal reality where things always work out, and where doing the right thing is always rewarded.

Old Poetry

Jun. 19th, 2016 10:29 pm
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Their story exists forever
On this planet they once lived
Immortals of this mortal world
Their actions live again

Echo an eternity
The sagas of these men
Those that died to live forever
Heroes they have been

Their bodies lost long ago
But memories remain
They gave themselves to live again
So forever they shall stay
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Helped dad tear apart a 1950s backhoe attachment (sat outside for 20 years or so) over the past few weeks. Wire-wheeled all of the hydraulic cylinders, and had to tear apart one of them to replace the packing, piston and cups - he also milled a new stainless steel shaft a bit as the shaft was shot as well. Primed the whole thing and then painted it international red. Built a bracketing system to put in on the rear end of an international 4N crawler. We just started toying with it yesterday - it's amazing how well made technology from the early to mid 1900s is compared to what gets sold today.

Tearing apart my motorcycle now (1982 Honda FT500) - mouse nest in the air filter - they ripped some of it up, too, which means buying a whole new housing and filter assembly - and it's been leaking oil out of the cylinder head, so time to replace the head gasket. Good project to keep me out in the garage and learning from my dad - which is really all I wanted to do at United, anyway. When he was working there, he was always so busy at home that I never felt like I could really gain his insight on anything...which made it hard to really learn.

Didn't hear back from United, and it's been three weeks today - funny because Barry assured me it was the time to apply. They hired 6 people last week that were interviewed in April, but I have no idea how long they waited before a call for the interview. Probably just a week, which is standard for most businesses. I'm guessing I'm blackballed. It's actually really sad in a way - four years of experience, and they'd rather hire people with no clue. I missed 12 days of work in a year (2 more of that were personal days) and pretty much everyone knew I was getting sick all the time. I just can't believe that they'd hold it against someone who put as much time in as I did.

I hate the place with a passion to be frankly honest, but it was my best chance of being able to retire someday and staying around here to be close to family and take care of the property. It's also really infuriating that college isn't going to work out. I've been coming across people on reddit who did the exact same thing I did - waited for when their parents income wasn't considered and saved as much as they could - and they had no problems getting pell grants and state grants. Guessing I'm probably blackballed there too, somehow.

Always had a hunch there was more to it than just money earned and money saved - there's far too many other questions on aid applications that seem to have nothing to do with ability to pay.
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Is there an argument that cosmetic natural selection is more brutal for men than it is for women? Controlling for fitness level, is it not easier for a woman to appear attractive because the cultural tendency has been heavy makeup to obscure asymmetry/natural complexion and highlight things like eyelashes and lips?

This idea keeps popping up every once in awhile, and I really can't find anything that has been written about it. On the surface, at least, it does seem that there's an argument appearance standards are more brutal for men in this regard - once again, not getting into fitness level and body image as a whole, because there's some arguments that body image and fitness are more brutal for women, and more lenient for men (although this is almost silly on a fundamental level, because thanks to testosterone, men have an easier time with getting and staying in shape in the first place.)
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A US President who received the Nobel Peace Prize just opened up arms deals with Vietnam.

I'm not amused.
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This world is simply a brutal place. It's completely unforgiving; everything has been commodified. When one seeks to better oneself, accredited tools of the establishment capitalize on one's desire. If one chooses not to better oneself, one will most likely be forced into low-wage, low-skill servitude, with little hope of escape. If one chooses to specialize in a trade, even that will be capitalized upon. There is no escape from capitalism here. Every aim, goal, desire and skill has a price tag associated with it.

Frankly, I find it totally abhorrent and I really have no idea how to reconcile that.
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I had another partial post written on this topic, but I guess I'd rather condense it down anyway - I scrapped the other earlier.

Many facets of American Socialism do not examine the actual contributions of those who receive benefits from them, with exceptions in the cases of unemployment and social security.

For those who receive unemployment, the monies released to them are relative to the amount of money they made while employed - in this sense, unemployment is a fair kind of socialism - payout is inexorably connected to the contributions of the individual. It is a double standard, however, to only provide it to those who are unemployed without apparent fault - as firing or lay offs can be just as much a consequence of individual activity as resigning or quitting can be.

Social security keeps track of how much you have paid in - how much you have contributed to society - and returns that investment when you have reached an age deemed worthy of retirement by society. There is no double standard, no unfair allocation of resources - a person who lives long enough receives exactly the same amount as anyone else who paid in the same, regardless of their current life situation or recent decision making. It is, in fact, the model of ideological socialism - people receiving the safety net they deserve (even if there are some problems with capitalist market forces and wages that would need to be rectified to truly make it fair.)

Welfare does not care if you have ever worked, it only requires that you attempt to find work. It is, in fact, more difficult for a person who has successfully worked a great deal to receive welfare, than it is for a person who has not. Thus the safety net is not fairly applied - it often ends up only aiding the lowest common denominators, while ignoring others. The prevalence of the homeless can tell us that welfare does not function in America, and that it needs to be reexamined.

Financial aid for university does not care if you have ever worked, have ever tried to save finances for education - it only cares that you do not currently have assets, regardless of the circumstances behind the numbers of your bank account. If you save for years to attend university, you ultimately only harm yourself as far as affordable loans and grants are concerned. An individual who has saved should, at the least, receive the same benefits as a financially irresponsible individual, if we are to provide aid at all.

This is the primary problem with socialism in America - that it does not care for the details and the actual contributions of the individual - it is why there is such a huge outcry against Bernie Sanders and his favorite European countries, even if his intentions mean well, and even if their systems function perfectly fine.

It is my opinion that this kind of socialism was no mistake by the ruling elite - it was created out of the necessity of pitting people against one-another, and of providing unfair benefits to some, while ignoring others - it was created to discredit socialism itself, which is not at all similar in its ideological form to this abomination. In a pure form of socialism, contributions to the society are rewarded accordingly - not just by market forces (which can result in incredibly important careers being underpaid due to the perceived ease of worker replacement) but also by the demand for that work, and by the necessity of it.
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So I went Gluten Free since I last noted (what's that - three weeks or so?) and I still had symptoms. Actually, today was probably one of the worse episodes I had for about a month - and nothing I ate, except for some cooked burger with a bit of mexican seasoning on it and flour tortillas last night, could be considered hard to digest or out of the ordinary for me.

Doing some more reading today, and I decided that given what some people are claiming, I should start taking the probiotics again. So I'll do that. Apparently a lot of people experience a significant reduction in my symptoms while taking them.

A few days ago I went lactose free again, just to see, and I had a reprieve for about two days. Then today, of course. So I can't believe it's lactose.

If I had to hazard a guess it's either an ulcer (need to quit smoking), a hernia, diverticulitis/a bacterial infection, or something to do with my liver/pancreas - or worse. Basically, I'll take the probiotics for a week or two here and see if I get some improvement - if not, off to the doctor with me. I'll just get some cheap tests done if possible, and maybe get on an antibiotic. If it's more serious I'm going to be in trouble, because I still don't have insurance, and until my health improves, I can't really get working.

More now than previously I am regretting my decision to leave United, even in the face of all the shit I was dealing with down there, the boredom, the unsafe work conditions, the shift work. I started looking into some trade unions in western PA, and actually had a guy in the millwright trade tell me directly that I probably made a mistake leaving the refinery, because that's the job everyone in the trade unions wants - they want that stability and not having to travel far. Sorta sad to have someone tell me that, actually, although they certainly didn't know my circumstances...the health issues, the pension loss, the healthcare reduction, and toxic culture, etc. I mean, needing to wait 10 years or so before even having a chance at apprenticing as a millwright at the plant was definitely a big part of why I left, too.

There's no real plus side at the moment on the job front - my health being as it is has me pretty down, and I can't really follow through on anything until I'm better. I have some friends/acquaintences in the pipefitter trade out of Erie/Pittsburgh, and I could probably get in there and make some decent money (and get to travel all over western PA) but I would rather shoot for millwrights - then again, millwrights have a much smaller area to cover, and their apprenticeship looks really difficult to advance within...without knowing contractors to get work ahead of time.

I don't want to self pity right now, but this really kinda sucks. The health stuff more than anything else - I'm kinda worried that this is going to be expensive and serious in the long term, and if I lose my savings to it, I'll have lost my one real chance at freedom/mobility to find a better career/training.


Apr. 19th, 2016 11:17 pm
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So, I went gluten free about a week and a half ago, and my digestive system is finally almost back to normal. I'm still getting some of the symptoms I was for the past monthish, but not nearly as severe, and not as often. I'm not even sure it was the gluten - obviously, I'll add it back in after awhile (I'm thinking a couple months, because I hear that's about how long it takes to get out) and we'll see for sure. It could have been a bacterial infection that got out of control, it could have been a partial obstruction, or any number of different things. But because it's died down so much, I can't really imagine it's something really serious. If it were, I would think it would have become much worse, or at least stayed the same, over time (and subsequently, I would have already been to a doctor.)

I have noticed some different things while being off gluten, though - my sinuses seem to be clearer, and my left knee has hurt much less than it has in a couple years. Still, it's not really proof of gluten intolerance or celiac disease - my left knee could be better because I haven't weight lifted in over a month, and my sinuses might be clearer because I've been getting plenty of fresh air.

At any rate, I'm really happy that this cleared up without a need to spend money - especially because medicaid screwed me out of insurance this year.

The past week has been fairly busy - I'm getting outside quite a bit, and avoiding this damn PC as much as I can. I finished Understanding Power by Noam Chomsky (excellent read on US foreign policy, capitalism, and else) and have been running a John Deere caterpillar for my father, working on some drainage ditches in the field. I'm sunburned all to hell.

Tomorrow I'm rototilling the neighbor lady's garden (as long as the equipment holds together) and my uncle needs my help moving some furniture out of his trailer. I'm assuming he will also need some help with moving some junk around, too (he's the semi-hoarder) but we'll see.

Now that I'm feeling better, I'm thinking of getting myself back to working here shortly. I thought about it long and hard, and I think something more temporary is best right now - I'm still not sure what I'm doing in life, but I really don't want to resign myself to a career around here just yet. Especially if there's no pressing need for it.
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"The right to a useful and remunerative job"
"The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation"
"The right of every family to a decent home"
"The right to adequate medical care and opportunity to enjoy and achieve good health"
"The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment"
"The right to a good education"
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An interesting snapshot of some search analytics I did tonight, for those who might find it interesting. The quoted article is the first video, news article, or page in the search results. Of real interest is how the number of search results varied drastically between candidates and between added terms, except for one term: "best" - for some reason, the word best shows up basically every single time the name of a candidate is searched for (as you can see from the result numbers being *identical*)

I would like to take this so much deeper, but I would require a great deal more programming knowledge and a lot of time. Ideally, I'd have searched for many, many terms, and possibly even contexts (negative articles vs. positive articles.) I could certainly grab a sample size for each candidate - for instance, the first 10 or 20 articles that show up in search results - and make a determination on whether or not an article is negative or positive. Maybe that's what I'll do for a future project.

Bernie Sanders: About 62,300,000 results (0.77 seconds)
Hillary Clinton: About 80,400,000 results (0.53 seconds)
Donald Trump: About 178,000,000 results (0.61 seconds)

With the term "idiot":
Bernie Sanders: About 658,000 results (0.48 seconds) "5 Questions For Bernie Sanders Supporters | Zero Hedge"
Hillary Clinton: About 603,000 results (0.60 seconds) "The 5 Dumbest Things Hillary Clinton Has Said Since 2008"
Donald Trump: About 4,730,000 results (0.62 seconds) "America, you're stupid: Donald Trump's political triumph ..."

With the term "worst":

Bernie Sanders: About 24,200,000 results (0.53 seconds) "Bernie Sanders is the Worst Presidential Candidate in History"
Hillary Clinton: About 30,000,000 results (0.50 seconds) "The FBI Just Gave Hillary Clinton The Worst News EVER - Breaking!"
Donald Trump: About 75,300,000 results (0.57 seconds) "Harper Lee: Donald Trump casino was 'worst punishment' God could devise, letters say"

With the term "best":
Bernie Sanders: About 62,300,000 results (0.63 seconds) "In 180 Seconds You Will Be Voting For Bernie Sanders ..."
Hillary Clinton: About 80,400,000 results (0.80 seconds) "Hillary Clinton Just Gave The Best Speech Of Her Campaign"
Donald Trump: About 178,000,000 results (0.83 seconds) "Donald Trump's best lines during his 2016 speech - YouTube"

With the term "fascist":
Bernie Sanders: About 575,000 results (0.50 seconds) "Bernie Sanders: The Most Fascist Candidate of All » Louder ..."
Hillary Clinton: About 543,000 results (0.41 seconds) "Hillary Clinton Isn't A Socialist—She's A Fascist | Western ..."
Donald Trump: About 761,000 results (0.46 seconds) "Is Donald Trump a fascist? An expert on fascism weighs in."

Finally, of special interest:
Barack Obama: About 162,000,000 results (0.51 seconds)
Ted Cruz: About 224,000,000 results (0.59 seconds)

Donald Trump has been mentioned on the internet more times than a two-term incumbent president.
Ted Cruz has been mentioned more times than Donald Trump.

Something to think about.
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This emptiness finds its expression in the whole form of existence, in the infiniteness of Time and Space as opposed to the finiteness of the individual in both; in the flitting present as the only manner of real existence; in the dependence and relativity of all things; in constantly Becoming without Being; in continually wishing without being satisfied; in an incessant thwarting of one’s efforts, which go to make up life, until victory is won. Time, and the transitoriness of all things, are merely the form under which the will to live, which as the thing-in-itself is imperishable, has revealed to Time the futility of its efforts. Time is that by which at every moment all things become as nothing in our hands, and thereby lose all their true value.

Arthur Schopenhauer

Here's another good one, from the same text:

"It may be said of man in general that, befooled by hope, he dances into the arms of death."
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Posted this in response to a comment on reddit, and it's received a pretty decent number of upvotes as far as reddit upvoting goes, so I figured I'd post it here as well.

College isn't expensive because it's exclusive knowledge you can't learn elsewhere - it's expensive because everyone thinks they are going to benefit directly from a college degree, and everyone thinks they will personally profit from the acquisition of one. In reality, only a small portion of jobs actually require higher learning, and most people are simply going into debt for little to no reason. Jobs might ask for a degree for positions that don't necessitate it, but if you were the right person, or knew the right person, that requirement would be waived. It's a filter and nothing more, and one method of controlling levels of unemployment and funneling high numbers of applicants.

In the history of university it was something reserved for the elite class, and like you said, only in recent history has this changed to encompass a larger demographic - and not necessarily to their benefit. The person most capable of benefiting from a degree is the person who has an extensive family network and financial resources at their disposal - not someone who will be under crushing debt upon graduation, having zero leverage to aim for the highest potential return, and pressured to start earning even if the work is below their educational level.
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FAFSA changed some things around this year - one thing in particular which will not be helping me. They're asking for the totals of all bank accounts now. When I was younger and applying for aid yearly because I was working on my A.A., it never went that far - it asked for assets, like stock holdings or real estate, but not bank accounts. So, this is how this feels to me: basically, I did the right thing for four years, saving every penny I could, only to have that now work against me. Wonderful.

My EFC still isn't as bad as what my parents had yearly (the government expected them to fork over about $24,000/year, when that was about half of their after tax income.) But it's bad enough to prevent me from receiving any federal pell grants, and until my bank accounts are exhausted, that will continue to be the case. About $13,000/year, or half of what it costs to attend a public university, is my expected contribution. It's doable, but my savings will be exhausted about the time I finish a bachelors, and the other half that isn't covered will be debt. I filled out my PHEAA state grant forms today and will send them in tomorrow...but I'm not expecting any miracles there. Not once did I receive their grants, while I saw numerous other people get them no problem.

I'm peeved about this - every dealing I've had with the government in the past month has had an awful outcome. The healthcare tax penalty, the fact that there's no private insurers willing to insure me through the marketplace (and I'm stuck waiting for something from state medicare) and the fact that I had to pay an extra $70 to file my taxes because I received a 401k distribution (3 extra numerical details = an entirely different tax form apparently.)

This whole bank account thing with FAFSA really bugs me because it makes me feel like the government wants someone my age, or someone who has saved to attend college by working (instead of going into debt) to go into debt essentially just as much as someone who just graduated high school with no savings whatsoever. It works out the same, if you think about it - if their parents aren't middle class, they will get pell grants every semester, and they will likely get further state grants...working out to be around $10,000/year in free money. Whereas someone who has saved enough won't get any of that. Makes absolutely zero fucking sense to me. Well, let me restate that - it makes perfect sense, because the college system currently isn't designed to be easily accessible or affordable - it's designed to make a certain sector of our society a lot of money with zero risk.

So will I be going back? I'm really starting to think that's a negative. If I get grants through PHEAA I may, but I'm still very uncertain about my level of desire for sitting in classrooms again.
sathor: (Default)
January 31st is the deadline, and I decided that I'd rather see what's offered than be forced to pay $625 in penalties in the 2016 tax year. I completed my application, which probably took about 30 minutes of my time, and they processed it. I was surprised to find out that I'm apparently not eligible for anything except for *possibly* medicaid, which means that if I don't get a medicaid notice from my state as a result of this application, I'll be paying the penalties anyway. does that work exactly?

Does my income filter out possible providers? Why didn't they ask for an estimate of my assets or savings? I made $0 last month, and I will likely make $0 for a few more months of this year at the least - but why does that prevent me from seeing options I can pay for? What in the actual fuck?

The "eligibility" pdf they sent me was a TON of technical jargon, followed by ways to appeal the automated decision...and none of it seemed particularly relevant to my situation. Hurray for bureaucracy!


Jan. 8th, 2016 05:33 am
sathor: (Default)
No response on the Gas Plant Operator position. I set up an account with PA-Career-link today just to see what's out there and not being advertised, and I was surprised to see some postings from the end of last year for maintenance at a couple different places locally. I threw my resume at them, but not before I realized that the resume I had sent for the operator job said Mar 2011 - Mar 2016 for my work dates at URC. Whoops.

All three jobs wanted me to also apply in person (then why am I sending you my resume?) or go to the career-link facility to fill out an application (once again, why?) If you read my resume and want an interview with me, isn't that enough? The hoop jumping is kinda off-putting, to be honest - it's not like they'd have an over-abundance of applicants for those jobs living IN warren, but they are obviously trying to add difficulty to the process with the intent of filtering people out...when I'd imagine one year of maintenance experience would do that quite nicely by itself. Maintenance jobs aren't easy to come by - I think United was the only place locally that lets you start out doing it, and that's because production isn't limited to machine operators or line assemblers standing in one place for a full shift.

So, somewhat discouraged at the moment, but that's just how it goes I guess. I shouldn't have expected things to get any easier, at any rate. The Forge is often hiring, and it is one of the places I sent my resume, so I might think about heading down to Career-link to fill out their application...making special note that I do not want a machine-operator job. I've done enough mindless crap more, please. I'd only make an exception if I had a fast-track into maintenance...goes for anywhere.

As a whole, I'm feeling less confident that I will be able to find something half-decent locally. Not exactly a good feeling.

I can't get my own place on less than $12ish/hour, at least, not without selling my vehicle (insurance, upkeep...very expensive.) I'll give it a couple more weeks I guess.

A trade union apprenticeship is possible but it would involve an insane amount of travel, relocation nearby or in a major city (for at least five years) and a lot of crap. Just not sure that I would be very happy for those five years...or even after. Can't even have pets if you have a union job and no one at home - you'll spend half of your life far, far away from wherever you reside.

I did some thinking today, and maybe it's not GOOD necessarily, but I think it's true, and I think it's true for a lot of people from my generation around here (and actually, even the ones that move away seem crippled by it - so maybe it's not just here?) It's the lack of opportunity. I don't know what it is about this time period, but employers seem very neglectful when it comes to building skills in their employees. Most entry-level jobs could be performed by someone with severe mental handicaps, and those entry level jobs often don't lead very far, and typically don't lead to any real skill building. Even the ones that, on the surface, appear to, don't - for instance, a lathe operator who has quotas and produces the same parts consistently, doesn't learn any of the problem solving techniques or mechanical know how necessary for him to apply those lathe skills into a maintenance job. Actually, he might not even learn how to set up /different/ kinds of parts, for different reasons. His job would be about as complicated, once it's broken down, as say, the kind of work people do in third world sewing shops.

Every job I've ever had was like this - every single one. And the ones I'm aware of, through other people, didn't seem much different. If I had waited at United, I would've spent my first few years in the machine shop (after 7-10 years in labor, the stockroom, or as an operator sub) primarily changing oil in pumps - something I could've done from day one of my employment there, with basically zero oversight. At the lumber mill, I was piling lumber - the dry-chain sawyer job was basic mathematics that took some practice, but no more than that - the same goes for the shippers, or the forklift operators, or the bay tenders, or the stick-layers. The grader is the only "skilled job" and there was no crossover skills involved. The head sawyer took some knowledge, but I imagine that just about anyone could've mastered it with some short instruction and practice.

So at any rate, a lot of these maintenance jobs I'm looking at are asking a lot of a person - one wanted you to demonstrate both electrical troubleshooting (industrial electric is no laughing matter) AND welding (structural and pipe welding isn't either) besides having all sorts of mechanical knowledge and background related to industrial maintenance. The kind of skill list they're asking for would be the equivalent of someone having two masters degrees in two different fields, except through experience - but also that they would've had to pay out the arse to get it through technical schooling, or spend ten years in trade unions (five in electrical, and five in millwrights/welders.) I don't know ANYONE who has done that, and I don't know ANYONE who has those requisite skills unless they are already close to retirement.

Sorry for the bitching, but it's starting to get on my nerves a little. It seems to me there's a lot of skills you get only by getting your foot into a job that is well above your skill level, and I think that takes more than a good resume. I think it tends to take knowing someone within the organization, or a really great interview.
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