The Poor Wealthy

It’s always distressing to see people who either have all the outward show of being intelligent and well-educated or who are in positions of power behaving like the village idiot, clearly incapable of stepping back from themselves enough to look in the mirror. Granted, it’s a difficult thing to do, but one of the drawbacks of having power is that you have to use it wisely and to do that you have to examine your motives.

This is not about morality, it’s about practicality. Wield your power irresponsibly and mindlessly and you’ll reign supreme for a while, but ultimately whoever you’re trampling on will rise up against you with a force that your power can’t overwhelm. I’m not just talking about despots either, although they illustrate this beautifully. There’s almost a formula for how events play out.

They gain power undemocratically, or even democratically. Then it goes to their head and they begin to bleed their subjects dry. They surround themselves with sycophants, and convince themselves that they’re acting in the country’s best interests. Eventually they’re fit only for the lunatic asylum. One day their subjects begin to say we’ve had enough. They protest. They’re ignored. Their protests get louder and more physical.

Protesters get brutalized, arrested, violated. They get angrier and more violent. Further suppression follows, bloody and violent. Surprisingly no doubt to the despot, their power isn’t so effective any more. They go into denial. Their sycophants start deserting them. The world either intervenes or doesn’t but severely criticizes them and they become outcasts. They insist they are doing nothing wrong.

They refuse to leave. They say they will die in the country that they were born in. The sycophants that are left beat their chests with bravado as they nervously look around them and calculate the odds. The rebellion doesn’t stop, no matter how much and how bloodily the subjects are violated, no matter how more sophisticated the despot’s weapons of suppression.

The despot goes down still protesting. It never happens any other way, unless the despot has some capacity to step outside of themselves to look at the consequences of their actions and get out sooner. As in Egypt. In countries where the democratic process is more sophisticated, the violence is mostly absent, but the process is the same.

It’s always the middle class that starts out naive and believing, willing to work like dogs for the sake of God and country. Proud of their democracy, proud that change happens peacefully and that they can have a hand in it. Not always able to grasp the extent to which their good-heartedness and commitment get exploited. Not always that able to step outside of themselves either and see that they’re letting themselves be doormats.

But democracy has an inherent flaw. It’s supposed to be the best system for the exercise of freedom. It would work well in a country where there’s no greed, where leaders and all politicians genuinely work for the better of the individual and the country as a whole. But failing that perfect scenario, gradually greed and power takes less and less responsibility (pays less and less tax) and exploits the good qualities of the middle class who pay more tax and get lower salaries until their morale and their lives are eroded beyond endurance.

The erosion has only one possible ending. People start to protest! A new leader emerges who sees that the danger isn’t just imminent, it’s upon the country, and something has to be done to restore the middle class, because it’s always the engine of any society. The leader wants the middle class to get its just rewards, and for the wealthy to pay fair tax. The powerful class clings panic-stricken to its position, terrified of giving an inch. Which nicely reveals exactly how powerful they really are.

What’s mind-boggling is the childish transparency of their excuses. Namely if you raise taxes for the wealthy they will leave the country, you will discourage investors (the implication being that they only invest in the US because they can exploit and not contribute their fair share). The best one is that you will be taxing all the small businesses who will fold and job creation will cease. Enter John Boehner, with that sulky look on his face, moaning about the poor wealthy.

It’s mindless. Pity the seemingly civilized, educated, sophisticated individual who appears to not have much better of an understanding of what makes society run smoothly than a Middle Eastern despot.

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Obama Wins Florida After All

So all the swing states, including Florida, went to Obama after all, as I thought they would. How did CNN, the New York Times, and to a lesser extent the Huffpost, get it wrong, and how did I get it right? Luck of the draw? I don’t think so. Absent in polling is an understanding that giving your opinion is one thing, the reality of voting is another. Opinion has no consequence and in the case of those so-called undecided voters, it was often driven by powerful emotion.

Their lives had been difficult for a long time, they were afraid of things getting worse. They had a lot of ‘information’ thrown at them by the Romney campaign, very little of it truthful, much of it fear-mongering, but how were they to know that? Fear diminishes your capacity for rational thought. It happens to all of us.

But, the problem was that nobody really liked Romney. When you’re not a fanatic, it’s very hard to place your trust in somebody who either doesn’t know how to reach you and connect with you, or doesn’t think it’s important. Plus, he’s not a trustworthy politician. He’ll say what he thinks people want to hear. This is not the first time he changed his policies mid-way. He did it when he ran against Ted Kennedy.

He started both campaigns as a conservative, didn’t make enough headway, so became more moderate. People who want to get rid of a politician because he threatens their status quo or because he’s the wrong color, won’t care about this absence of backbone and deep-rooted conviction and they have no investment in rational thought. They’ll blind themselves to something we all instinctively know if we let ourselves admit it, that a man who betrays once will betray again. And who he betrays isn’t of much concern to him.

But even those Romney supporters didn’t really like him and their reasons for voting were not that he had great leadership qualities. He doesn’t have them. It’s ironic that all the impassioned rhetoric about rescuing the American economy and society from the claws of a socialist came from people who were willing to leave things in the hands of a patent liar. Romney did now and then irrevocably and openly expose the truth of who he is, mind you, when he said 47% of Americans were irresponsible victims and they weren’t his concern.

He consolidated that with another bit of truth about himself when he added, in his clumsy and not particularly intelligent attempt to patch things up, that in a campaign you tell your electorate what they want to hear. That must have really reassured his wealthy supporters. But they didn’t care. Now that kind of stupidity is what causes the demise of all civilizations.

I watched this circus and became pretty sure that the ‘undecided voters’ were obviously not  fanatics, and had no agenda in voting Obama out. I was sure they wouldn’t be able to blind themselves to Romney’s weaknesses or to how much he lied when it suited him, or to how much Obama connected with them at a humane level. They don’t like Romney but they do like Obama, not because he’s a con artist but because he’s a good man with powerful leadership qualities and a profound humanity.

He might not have turned the economy around sufficiently to completely alleviate their fear and discomfort, but he had succeeded enough against massive odds and despite great Congressional resistance, for them to see that he was a safer bet than Romney. That moment of voting is when the reality of consequence stares you in the face, when you realize that your choice could be the one that shapes your future. If you have an ounce of sense you cast your fears aside enough to think rationally, and you pick the safer bet.

I predicted that Obama would get all the swing states because I believed that the majority of Americans have that capacity. It’s easy to say you support somebody you don’t trust and don’t like. It’s very difficult to actually vote for them. People are so cynical about politics in the US, but I think they illustrate the degree to which its society has advanced in its capacity to make healthy choices that are truly about the improvement of their world, even if that improvement involves discomfort and challenge. And nothing could be more important than that.

President Obama’s Win – The Death Knell of Conservative Power

It’s hard to believe the election is over. I feel privileged to be living in an era when so much change is happening, so much of it for the better of humanity. It’s easy to look at developing countries and the Middle East where people are so fighting so valiantly for really basic rights and believe that’s where all the action is happening.

But for me the US election was right up at the top there, too, although it’s manifesting in a far less violent way. America has always been at the forefront of the search for the kind of freedom that allows for a person’s rights to be respected and for their creativity and individuality to have the opportunity to flourish, whilst also contributing to community.

The balance is fine, and is a challenge for anybody to get even remotely right. In America, it’s constantly evolving as a social dynamic too. Whatever people say about this phenomenal country, nobody can deny that things are always on the move, which I think the results of this election illustrate beautifully.

Yesterday, once the results were in, CNN anchors and contributors started in like vultures on the gloom and doom. It was sickening. There was such an unwillingness to let the world celebrate something beautiful even for a day and to acknowledge what an extraordinary thing had happened. Richard Quest was like a dog with a bone about the stock markets crashing because Wall Street didn’t want Obama.

In fact, the crash had nothing to do with the election, it was a reaction to the drama in Europe, and by the end of the day it had slowed down significantly. But probably the strangest distortion was how everybody was saying that so many billions were spent on the election and nothing had changed. Everything has changed. The change in America is not about the logistics of a Democratic President still in power with a Democratic Senate and Republican Congress.

It’s about a fight for that balance in society, and for people’s rights to have it in their lives. It was about people waking up and realising how much they stood to lose if they didn’t fight. And because they did, this election has proved that the upsurge of conservatism in America was actually the death rattle of a way of life dominated by fear, greed and racism. If billions had to be spent for that to be achieved, it was money very well spent.

America will never go back from this point. The older, white conservative male Republicans, who formed the bulk of Romney’s supporters, are losing their power because minorities, younger people, and women are finding their voice. They’re passionate about their rights, passionate about their desire for a life of balance and a society that nurtures it. And unlike other countries around the world, they are not being imprisoned for it, or slaughtered.

And now they have a President who recognises that they embody the spirit of everything that once made America truly great. How can anybody say nothing has changed? Everything has changed. God Bless America for showing the world how to do it.

I’m Holding Out For Barack Obama, A Man Amongst Men

I woke up this morning in Cape Town South Africa at 5:30 and my first thought was please God, the Universe or whatever, let all those Americans who support the truth and the wisdom, honesty and transparency that Barack Obama embodies as an individual and as a President, know how crucial it is to vote today.

In the past week I’ve seen two documentaries aired on CNN, one about Mitt Romney, the other about Barack Obama. There were things about Mitt Romney that I liked. I liked how passionately he loves his children and his wife. I didn’t see an evil man. But I did see a man who shifts with the wind whenever it suits him, and who apparently has no awareness that he’s doing it, and that I don’t like.

It scares me. Because either he’s dissembling and knows exactly what he’s doing, which makes him just a political opportunist who will say whatever he thinks people want to hear so he can get into power – which is definitely not outside of the realm of possibility – or he’s a fool like GW Bush, which makes him the ultimate potential puppet.

Neither alternative is particularly attractive in the leader of a country that has historically shown tremendous willingness to create war where none was necessary, to fill the pockets of the military industrial complex. I saw an interesting photo of GW Bush and Romney standing side by side, hands across their chests, looking beautifully patriotic.

But alarmingly, with the same vacuous expression on their faces. What is so hard for me to understand is how so many Americans can want to place their trust in a man who can’t steer himself on a straight course through a campaign. He couldn’t do it against Ted Kennedy and he hasn’t done it against Barack Obama.

If he was deliberately screwing with people’s minds, well, it didn’t work against Kennedy, did it? Only problem is, Kennedy wasn’t the first African American president, so factor that into the mix and the picture becomes a little more alarming. Still, somehow I have this inner conviction that Barack Obama will cary the day.

It’s one thing to say you support somebody you don’t really like, it’s another thing to actually vote for them. Mitt Romney isn’t a popular man amongst his own followers. But Barack Obama is. Which tells a story. It seems that the only people in the world who can’t see why he should be president for another 4 years are that belt of conservative Americans.

Everybody else in the world wants Obama to win. It’s so clear to all of us. I’m sure even Iran would prefer him to Romney! Plus, we’re all sick of war too. We’re all sick of lies and politicians who shift with the wind, who love to bully and throw the weight of their country around. We know a good man when we see one. And we see him, clear as day.

I love America. It embodies so much that I hold dear – the ability to make something of dreams, to think big, to constantly evolve what it means to be a free and caring individual. The years under GW were dark, but with Barack Obama as President I’ve seen the America that I love begin to come alive again. So I’m holding out for him. A man amongst men.

Dear President Obama…

Dear President Obama,

Oprah Winfrey once said that if you want to thank somebody, then do it! I can’t let another day go by without thanking you for the way you’ve inspired me in my own life, for the incredible courage you’ve shown, for your remarkable capacity to focus on the important aspects of humanity, and for the truly great president that you’ve been these past four years. I wish I was American, that I could work for and vote for you.

I’m relieved and thrilled that many Americans appreciate you. I wish more could step away from their fears, prejudices and conditioning to see how you speak and act from the heart, and with wisdom and breadth of vision. I wish they would factor in the reality of what it takes to heal America from the wounds inflicted by the past Administration.

Most of all, I wish they’d let themselves see what you’ve achieved despite unbelievable resistance and odds – and that you are succeeding. Sometimes it seems to me that you’re a great man in a room full of blind, deaf, prejudiced, fearful people. And no matter how strong you are, I think it must be painful and so hard.

When you were elected, I celebrated with every molecule of my being! Of course I want to see a landslide this time, it should be a landslide. When there’s this much good going on it’s natural to want to see it widely acknowledged and celebrated. Well, you never know, but landslide or not, I think you’ll win. Integrity and reality have a way of getting beyond the barriers of prejudice and fear.

Thanks also from the bottom of my heart for the inspiration you’ve brought to my own life. I’ve had a lot of obstacles to overcome within myself. I never give up but I do sometimes feel discouraged. Every time, though, I look to you in my mind. You remind me of what a person can achieve, and what they can withstand without losing any part of themselves.

I wish you peace in your heart, and great and wonderful success in your campaign. You’re a pearl of great price in my estimation.

Yours truly,

Jennifer Stewart

The Creative Process – From Dreaming To Reality

Here’s why people prefer to dream than to do something about their dreams.  The first stage is fabulous, it’s where you let all your ideas go wild.  You don’t censor anything, don’t tell yourself you can’t succeed.  It’s kind of like taking a drug that inhibits all your inhibitions.  I like that phase a lot.

Then you start to organize your thoughts and begin to create something real.  This part is where challenges start.  A lot of people give up at the threshold, and prefer to make excuses – I would if I could, but…  If you can push yourself over the threshold, though, it gets much more exciting than dreaming, and as challenges come up you deal with them.

Momentum builds and pretty soon you’re carried on the wave of your own creativity.  There’s nothing like it.  It’s also where you start to realize “hey, my dream could actually come true.”  It’s a pretty inspiring and energizing thought.

Then you’re done with whatever it is you’ve created and you launch it.  And without realizing it you’re back in the dreaming phase.  You think you’re being practical but actually you can’t help yourself believing you’re going to be an instant success.

You think of all the people who have managed to rise above the seething masses and be noticed by more than family and friends, and you think “this is going to happen for me too.”  It’s true, you have created this possibility, fashioned it out of a dream, worked on it in a real way.  You read and hear about the successes.

You even read about their challenges along the way but somehow it doesn’t sink it that probably you’re going to have them too.  You think, “well, it couldn’t have been so bad for them, because they must have known somewhere in their hearts that it was all going to work out okay.”

Maybe for some people instant success happens, but it hasn’t happened for me yet.  I have to constantly remind myself that that’s the operative word – “yet”.  I’m facing the reality that the challenges of this phase put you in a very lonely and scary place.  It’s the time you want to give up, because you’re swimming in a quagmire of self-doubt about you and what you’ve created.

It’s natural to look to the outside world for affirmation, and when you don’t get it, to believe you don’t deserve it.  It’s easy to want to give up.  But this, I think, is exactly the time when you have to stay and keep on going.   Live on hope.  Be grateful that you can generate it.  Try not to listen to the part of you that laughs, mocks, jeers “who do you think you are?  You’re a lunatic.”

I paper my walls with messages that remind me not to give in to that crap.  Remind me that the idea that I can’t succeed is as much a speculation as the idea that I can.  So why choose to believe the one that destroys my hope and cauterizes my creativity?

This phase of turning a dream into a reality is the hardest of all.  It’s a constant fight to hold onto faith and hope; remember the pleasure I’ve had so far in creating, and keep on reaching for it.  It’s a constant bloody fight to not give up.  But it’s the good fight.

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The Wild Animal of Lust For Venice and Italy

The city of Venice, built on 117 islands.

Venice, built on 117 islands. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve just spent the last half hour torturing myself looking at photos of Venice, Siena and Florence.  My life is so pedestrian at the moment it’s driving me crazy.  Ever since I lived in Siena, a million years ago, I’ve had a lust for Italy that has never gone away.  It’s been like a wild animal in hibernation, quietly sleeping somewhere in the recesses of my brain, waiting…

I wanted to go back but never managed to.  Too busy ferreting ghosts out of my closet then dealing with them, trying to wade through all the crap to find myself.  Then falling into a pit that seemed bottomless, and learning to crawl out.  I know I’ve had to do it, and if I’d gone back I wouldn’t have been able to have a stable life, so I don’t regret the work I’ve done in facing myself.  I’m very grateful for the help I’ve had and still have.

But I’m so damn sick of survival, and watching other people live adventurous and exciting lives. For heaven’s sake, I’ve ridden a bicycle through East Africa and from New York to Key West.  What’s happened to my courage?  I know I wasn’t born for a pedestrian life.  Today, those gorgeous photos of Venice – outrageously fabulous – woke up my wild animal lust with a start.  Oh, hallo! I remember you.

Well, other people have made it through crises and risen above so I must be able to also.  That’s a reassuring thought.  Need to have a word with God, maybe.  God or the Universe.  Look, I’m willing to apply myself but whatever else it is that I need to learn, or embrace, just send it my way would you.  And yes, yes, I know, I can’t win the lottery unless I buy the ticket.  Speaking metaphorically of course.

On which note I’d better do something practical, like my crime novel and paranormal romance.  Nobody seems to like my ebook And What About Me? Am I Into Him?so far, which doesn’t mean it won’t succeed at some point, I know that.  But maybe I’ll have a better shot with one of these others.  So let me get to them.   I wish somebody would discover me.  I’m sure I’m worth discovering.

Venice, I have not forgotten you…

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