Peace … be still. Why turn danger into fear?

Astrologists, meteorologists, and economists earn their bread addressing our fears about what is going to happen next. The astrologist advises us on the impact some planetary retrograde may have on your behavior toward yourself and others. The meteorologist gives us the heads up on the threat of hurricanes, tornadoes, or winter storms. The economist forecasts the next calamity that may befall gross domestic product or the financial markets. The more knowledge that they can convey to address our fear of a supernatural universe, floods and tornadoes, or crashing share prices, the better we hope that we can prepare for what is around the corner.

But is there really a corner? We live our lives as if we are actors in an episodic event. Each day is a story and we hope the linear gods will bring the episode to a neat end so that we can move on to the next episode (assuming it isn’t a two-part episode); hence, we are simply watching the penultimate episode.

But what do we know such that we believe we can consult on the probability of how any episode may end? The fact that any prognosticator will give you multiple final endings to the episode should tell any of their cash paying customers that the prognosticator likely knows just about as much about the outcome as you do. At the end of the episode, the only thing you may know for sure is that you handed over your cash to someone with more letters behind their name than you have.

Let’s look a little closer at the fear causing thing that is allegedly coming for us. The dread we feel is when this usually undefined fear is closing the physical gap between it and us. Not only do we rely on the experts to tell us that the monster is coming, we rely on them to describe to us what this monster is; what it looks like. We stay tuned for the big bang at the end of the episode, not knowing exactly when the hurricane may make landfall and weaken or if it will go back over warm water and strengthen.

Suppose we were to mitigate this fear by looking at life not as an episode that may end a number of ways, in multiple outcomes that we have no assurance will result, but as one, long narrative with no obvious plot and no fear inducing message? When I was a boy, my mother would share with me how to “forecast” the weather. She learned as a little girl from her grandmother to smell the air and feel the temperature and moisture on her skin. She also learned to look at the seagulls and observe how low they were flying to the ground. These “in the moment” signs were what she used to guide her through another day in a continuous story line versus living in the fear of an episode based on a scientific forecast of fear that might never pan out.

Maybe instead of waiting for something to come for us around the corner or over the horizon, we should sit still and realize that what we think is out there and coming for us has likely been occupying a chamber right next to us. If we go inward, we may realize that what we are afraid of does not have to travel any great distances with dreadful sounding music in the background building up to a crescendo. While sitting still in a metaphysical space, we can choose to either enter the mental chamber where fear resides and start a new episode or merely observe danger come and go by like the shifting shade that it is.

Living life like an episode turns danger into fear and the prognosticators serve only to amplify that fear.

Maybe that Hebrew rabbi had a point. Peace …. be still.

Political law summarizes the fear, narrative, politics, and policy of the winner

Today I was listening to Scott Galloway, a professor at University of California-Berkeley, make an argument for breaking up the “Big Four”: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google.  His premise was that given their public mantra of trying to make the world a better and more connected place, in the end, their only reason for being was “to sell Nissans.”  The FANGS, when all is said and done, are not vehicles for altruism, but instruments of capitalism.  They are media companies that either use free content (Facebook) or create or pay for content (Amazon) to grab eyeballs for advertisers.

I can say the same thing about the United States.  Between now and November 11th, during the political party conventions, campaign rallies, and debates, America’s candidates for elected office will attempt to sell Americans on how much better they are at creating jobs, keeping Americans safe from criminals, being transparent about governance, and carrying themselves in a decent, trustworthy manner.  And pursuant to the rule of law, all citizens, entities, and institutions are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated; equally enforced; independently adjudicated; and consistent with international human rights principles.

Like Professor Galloway, I have cut through the “Madison Avenue” selling points of the United States.  I believe that an accurate general theory of law relies on a cogent and clear history of the United States.  The United States is a result of an opportunity taken by its wealthy elite to create its own country while the mother country, Great Britain, was distracted by competition with its European neighbors.  The original thirteen colonies were a trading post for Great Britain, surrounded by other trading posts established by France and Spain.

To exploit resources and benefit from trade, opportunistic Anglos created the United States.  As part of the narrative that promoted independence, America’s founders created fear in the colonists by describing a tyrannical monarch that interfered with the passing of legislation in the colonies; repeatedly dissolved colonial houses of assembly ; impeded the naturalization of immigrants, and imposed taxes on colonists where colonists were not represented in Parliament.

After selling the fear narrative and winning a military battle, it was off to the politics of creating a government that would not unreasonably infringe on the commercial and human rights of its citizens in exchange for said government’s right to manage the exploitation of resources; to tax its citizens, and to secure the infrastructure necessary for the movement of commerce.

As a political and legal document, the current Constitution captures this history, but I think what is lost on the courts is the obligation they have under precedent to interpret political law under this narrative; the narrative of the winner.  Interpretation of political law should be based on the winner’s world view of the political-economic environment.

What is that environment?  That first, the United States is a customs union with a government responsible for protecting infrastructure and via economic policy, the management of natural and human resources.  Second, it is a trading nation. It was birthed out of the vision of traders, merchants, and explorers coming to North America to first and foremost provide returns to the capital spent on exploring America in the first place.  Third, any and all law is a passed with the primary intent of regulating behavior in order to maintain an environment for increasing returns to capital.  Rights are the collateral damage the investor has to endure to see her returns.  America’s projection of altruism, morals, etc., are just part of a marketing campaign that sells America as the place where you come, work, and are taxed.  The optics, while necessary are secondary.

How does government enable us to serve the Energizer Bunny we call society?

The struggle we see today over control of government is disingenuous.  Hell.  It is downright phony.  As I write this, the two major parties vying for control of the United States government, the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, are centering their narratives on political packages they believe meet the desires of the electorate such that the electorate gives one of the parties control over legislation, administration, or both.  But do either offer any real change as to how the current model of government operates?

For the better part of the last 230 years or at least since the United States ditched its mercantilist economic policies, the United States has followed a policy that favors private control of the factors of commercial production where individuals or associations of individuals keep as income the revenues minus taxes and costs of production.  Such a policy under-girded by the concepts of liberty and freedom is hoped to incentivize these private owners to create innovative products while enticing the consumer to borrow money and purchase product.  Not only does the exchange between producer and consumer create taxable events thus revenues for government, but the ability that the producer and consumer have to autonomously enter into contracts to purchase validates the government’s authority over the jurisdiction of the United States.  Government hopes that the freedoms producer and consumer enjoy along with the protection of the infrastructure upon which trade is conducted will engender an allegiance to American government, American culture, and American “society.”

Freedom and liberty are essential parts of the American government’s narrative and for all the squabbling between the two major parties, that base narrative has not changed, although it has been my observation that Democrats don’t use those words much as opposed to Republicans who enjoy attaching the words to markets and commerce.  Government’s role is to sell the prevailing narrative.  The economic policy component of the narrative is capitalism and this policy component, while not explicitly referred to in law, is implicitly referred to in various statutes as “markets”, “commerce”, “trade”, “full employment”, etc.

I think, however, that government has a more metaphysical role as well.  Government’s other role is to convert human energy into something consumable.  Humans prey on each other and technology and to some extent, the democratization of technology, has made that predatory behavior less obvious.  For example, currency is a technology.  We invest varying amounts of energy in capturing it and expend energy purchasing with our currency items for current or future consumption.  Our energy via currency is converted into tax revenues for government and profits for investors.  Through fiscal policy and the policy of capitalism, we are reduced to the function of a battery.  Unlike Neo, we are unable to unplug.

While humans have moved horizontally from the era of direct cannibalization, government keeps in place an alternative form of cannibalism; one that extends our lives via social welfare safety nets, investment in medical advances, the delusion of growth via travel and institutional education, laws protecting our person and property, financial services promising comfort in retirement, and media stimulation to ease the pain and suffering stemming from being consumed five, six, seven days a week.

Who does this energy transference ultimately serve?  I cannot say for sure.  When I see poor people in grocery store aisles struggling over the affordability of food.  When I see people dying because they cannot afford surgery.  When I see people having to work well into their seventies instead of resting and enjoying the status of a venerated elder while passing down knowledge to younger generations, I cannot say that this energy transfer system that we call the political economy serves the common man.  Rather, it serves us up…

So, what is government?  Government is a cannibal.  Government tenderizes us for consumption.  Government sells us on the requirement to comply.  Government enables us to serve the Energizer Bunny that is society.