Sunday, December 13, 2015

What we dream for our kids

We dream for our kids to be professional athletes... really?  why?  Most of them end up financially broke and physically broken.  What is wrong with us? what's wrong with the world that makes us wish this?
  "It's the Superman syndrome," says Billy Corben, director of the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary Broke. "These are guys coming from a life of being very good at one thing and constantly being told they're very good, so they think maybe they're just as good at being a businessman, too."
  "According to a recent poll from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 26 percent of U.S. parents whose children in high school play sports hope their child will become a professional athlete one day. Among families with household incomes of less than $50,000 annually, the number is 39 percent." "According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, only a tiny percentage of high school athletes actually go on to play professionally — roughly 1 in 168 high school baseball players will get drafted by a Major League Baseball team, and just 1 in 2,451 men's high school basketball players will get drafted by a National Basketball Association team."
How pro athletes lose everything

I love how this list one success in football... really, now many people have played pro football, college football, aspired to pro football? And you list one in football?

"A Sports Illustrated article reports the grim statistics -- 78 percent of NFL players face bankruptcy or serious financial stress within just two years of leaving the game and 60 percent of NBA players face the same dire results in five years.Jul 1, 2013"
 "Athletes suffer financially for many reasons, but the dumb jock explanation is not one of them. Professional athletes are intelligent and talented in ways the rest of us cannot fathom. Davidson agrees, noting that "The game requires a high level of discipline, focus and intelligence -- all traits that can be parlayed into smart money management." Sometimes all it takes is recognizing and overcoming some of these barriers, entering their world, and providing a little guidance."

Saturday, November 7, 2015

"politics ... intermingled with ...entertainment complex"

Is Ben Carson Running for President?

"But now Carson actually is running for president. Or is he? It is hard to tell. Conservative politics are so closely intermingled with a lucrative entertainment complex that it is frequently impossible to distinguish between a political project (that is, something designed to result in policy change) and a money-making venture. Declaring yourself a presidential candidate gives you access to millions of dollars' worth of free media attention that can build a valuable brand. So the mere fact that Carson calls himself a presidential candidate does not prove he is actually running for president rather than taking advantage of the opportunity to build his brand. Indeed, it is possible to be actually leading the polls without seriously trying to win the presidency."
This is a really good point, Trump/Carson and many of the would be Presidents are simply building their brand.  It's what Trump has done for generations.  There's no substance to it, there is very simply nothing there... other than ego's big enough to do it and a generation raised to want nothing more for themselves and their 'stars' than to be well branded.

More from Chait's piece:
 "And the notion that Carson could be president is preposterous. The problem is not only that he has never run for elected office. He has never managed a large organization; he has not worked in and around public policy, and he lacks a competent grasp of issues. His stance on health care, the closest thing to an issue with which his professional experience has brought him into contact, is gibberish. He mostly thrills audiences by scoffing at evolution and insisting Muslims be barred from the presidency, stances he cannot even defend coherently.

It is possible that Carson has come to genuinely believe that he is qualified to serve as president. (As a follower of the conspiracy theorist W. Cleon Skousen, Carson seems to subscribe in earnest to a series of completely fantastical beliefs.) It is also possible that Carson is being manipulated by staffers who stand to profit off their association with him. But the most likely explanation for his behavior is that Carson himself is in this thing to make a lot of money."
Other than the public's desire to worship at the reality star alter, throw into the fact this is a pretty good way for Carson and his staffers's to make serious cash... we'll it's a win-win for them.

But the great challenge is the damage their demagogy is doing to this country.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Harry Dean Stanton

"I only eat so I can smoke and stay alive... The only fear I have is how long consciousness is gonna hang on after my body goes. I just hope there's nothing. Like there was before I was born. I'm not really into religion, they're all macrocosms of the ego. When man began to think he was a separate person with a separate soul, it created a violent situation.
The void, the concept of nothingness, is terrifying to most people on the planet. And I get anxiety attacks myself. I know the fear of that void. You have to learn to die before you die. You give up, surrender to the void, to nothingness.
Anybody else you've interviewed bring these things up? Hang on, I gotta take this call..... Hey, brother. That's great, man. Yeah, I'm being interviewed... We're talking about nothing. I've got him well-steeped in nothing right now. He's stopped asking questions." 
~ HARRY DEAN STANTON - What I've Learned - from Esquire - more HERE

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Competition versus Enlightened Self-Interest

There once was a farmer who grew award-winning corn. Each year he entered his corn in the state fair where it won a blue ribbon. One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something interesting about how he grew it. The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors. "How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?" the reporter asked. "Why sir," said the farmer, "didn't you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn." He is very much aware of the connectedness of life. His corn cannot improve unless his neighbor's corn also improves. So it is with our lives. Those who choose to live in peace must help their neighbors to live in peace. Those who choose to live well must help others to live well, for the value of a life is measured by the lives it touches. And those who choose to be happy must help others to find happiness, for the welfare of each is bound up with the welfare of all. The lesson for each of us is this: if we are to grow good corn, we must help our neighbors grow good corn. Author Unknown ____________________________________ This one from David Hume, Scottish Philosopher: “Your corn is ripe today; mine will be so tomorrow. 'Tis profitable for us both, that I should labour with you today, and that you should aid me tomorrow. I have no kindness for you, and know you have as little for me. I will not, therefore, take any pains upon your account; and should I labour with you upon my own account, in expectation of a return, I know I should be disappointed, and that I should in vain depend upon your gratitude. Here then I leave you to labour alone; You treat me in the same manner. The seasons change; and both of us lose our harvests for want of mutual confidence and security.”

Tribal Poems

The preacher man says it's the end of time And the Mississippi River she's a goin' dry The interest is up and the Stock Markets down And you only get mugged if you go down town I live back in the woods, you see A woman and the kids, and the dogs, and me I got a shotgun, a rifle, and a 4-wheel drive And a country boy can survive Country folks can survive I can plow a field all day long I can catch catfish from dusk 'til dawn We make our own whiskey and our own smoke, too Ain't too many things these ole boys can't do We grow good ole tomatoes and homemade wine And a country boy can survive Country folks can survive Because you can't starve us out And you can't make us run 'Cause one-of-'em old boys raised on shotgun And we say grace and we say Ma'am And if you ain't into that we don't give a damn We came from the West Virginia coal mines And the Rocky Mountains and the and the western skies And we can skin a buck; we can run a troutline And a country boy can survive Country folks can survive I had a good friend in New York City He never called me by my name, just hillbilly My grandpa taught me how to live off the land And his taught him to be a businessman He used to send me pictures of the Broadway nights And I'd send him some homemade wine But he was killed by a man with a switchblade knife For 43 dollars my friend lost his life I'd love to spit some beech nut in that dude's eyes And shoot him with my old 45 'Cause a country boy can survive Country folks can survive 'Cause you can't starve us out and you can't make us run 'Cause one-of-'em old boys raised on shotgun And we say grace and we say Ma'am And if you ain't into that we don't give a damn We're from North California and south Alabama And little towns all around this land And we can skin a buck; we can run a trotline And a country boy can survive Country folks can survive - Hank Williams Jr.

People say I'm no-good, And crazy as a loon. I get stoned in the morning, I get drunk in the afternoon. Kinda like my old blue tick hound, I like to lay around in the shade, An', I ain't got no money, But I damn sure got it made. 'Cos I ain't askin' nobody for nothin', If I can't get it on my own. If you don't like the way I'm livin', You just leave this long-haired country boy alone. Preacher man talkin' on the TV, He's a-puttin' down the rock 'n' roll. He wants me to send a donation,'Cos he's worried about my soul. He said: "Jesus walked on the water,"And I know that is true, But sometimes I think that preacher man, Would like to do a little walkin', too. But I ain't askin' nobody for nothin', If I can't get it on my own. You don't like the way I'm livin', You just leave this long-haired country boy alone. A poor girl wants to marry, And a rich girl wants to flirt. A rich man goes to college,And a poor man goes to work. A drunkard wants another drink of wine,And a politician wants a vote. I don't want much of nothin' at all,But I will take another toke. 'Cos I ain't askin' nobody for nothin',If I can't get it on my own. If you don't like the way I'm livin', You just leave this long-haired country boy alone.
Charlie Daniels
We are a tribal people... Here are some of the songs of my tribe... the socialization, the world in which I grew up...I do wonder how much still sticks, even when we learn/grow/adjust.  Goffman talked about 'the presentation of self in everyday life'.  Becker suggested the 'essence of normality is the refusal of reality'.  I do wonder which parts of the socialization are absorbed by the 'monkey brain' by the fight/flight, fuck, eat, sleep parts of our brain... and we then assume it's 'natural' when it's just the tribe influencing that which has few options.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

When the economy collapses...

It's an argument you can't make at family reunions or at the local Hardee's at breakfast time. But, many of us believe that there is essentially zero difference in Obama, Clinton, Bush I and II, Reagan other than packaging, and the power elite have spent millions on that packaging. But, what about what has really happened and is going to happen going forward? A couple pieces I bring to your attention: First from Dave Pollard -
So, here’s the thing: All “growth” in the economy, for at least the past half century, has come from producing and consuming more (mostly oil-based) energy, in total and per capita. All of it. Without finding and burning more and more hydrocarbons at an ever-faster rate all over the globe, there would be no “growth”. The belief that growth comes from “innovation” is simply wrong. The industrial economy is absolutely dependent upon “growth”. All investment markets are based on the presumption that profits will grow at a rate much faster than inflation. No growth, no incentive for investment. Without the presumption of perpetual growth, stock markets would collapse, and with them housing markets, currencies and the rest of the economy. That’s why this economy is so insane. Since the 1980s, it has become all-important for governments to perpetuate the myth that there is and will continue to be “growth”, and that the population as a whole benefits from it. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Actual inflation rates, using un-manipulated data, have been hovering near 10% for years, not near-zero as reported. Actual unemployment rates are near 25% even in the most prosperous countries. Actual GDP “growth”, adjusted for real inflation, has therefore been negative for decades. On a per-capita basis, very negative. Highly positive for the 1% mind you, but very negative for everyone else. By loaning ever-increasing amounts of money to people at artificially depressed rates (rather than the double-digit rates called for by real inflation), the average taxpayer has the illusion of becoming more wealthy, since assets are rising (though debts are rising faster). Net worth in real terms for all but the super-rich has been and continues to be in free-fall, and for most is now less than zero. There is no longer any pretence by any government or large organization that the staggering debts they have accumulated will ever be repaid. As debts become due, they are simply rolled over to new debt issues with large new borrowings added on. And the banks create new debt every time they print more money or loan or invest. This can only continue with the assumption of perpetual and accelerating growth, and the assumption that interest rates can be kept far below real inflation rates through the complicity of banks, governments, corporations, media and regulators, indefinitely. Both assumptions are preposterous. So the global economy now teeters on the edge, supported by two massive lies: That the economy is actually growing and can continue to do so forever, despite the finiteness and growing extraction cost of the oil upon which it absolutely and utterly depends; and that the mind-boggling and accelerating levels of debt that have been racked up are sustainable indefinitely — that people (mostly unwitting taxpayers) will continue to loan and invest money in a globally bankrupt economy in the expectation that future generations will somehow come up with some miracle to enable its repayment and some other miracle to enable growth to continue forever. As soon as those holding these debts lose faith that these miracles will inevitably occur, the economy is toast. Stocks, investments, houses and currencies will plummet to near-zero levels, oil-fueled production will grind to a halt, assets will be liquidated to repay debts, trade will evaporate, and the longest and deepest depression in human history will begin. For most it has already begun. This is why, considering the alternative “first collapse” scenarios of energy/resource exhaustion and runaway climate change, my bet is still on economic collapse as the first domino in the series that will herald the end of our civilization. I would be surprised if it is more than 20 years before this first domino falls. Extreme weather events and climate change will then just add another level of immiseration to an already desperate situation, as it will take out human-built infrastructure and essential resources (food, water, forests, and the means to keep temperatures within human livable limits) far faster than any human effort could hope to recover from, even with a healthy economy. Then we will see a Great Migration of humans, similar to what occurred during the last Ice Age, except instead of a few million people in motion, it will be a few billion.
And then this piece - The Coming Fury of An Angry America
In 2008, there were more household bankruptcies than divorces. The cost of crap fell and Wal Mart rose. Debt enslaved suburbanites now spend 32% less on clothing than they did a generation ago. 18% less on food, 52% less on appliances, and 24% less on cars. The middle class is consuming as voraciously as it ever has, however they have replaced sturdy $400.00 American Lawn Boy lawn mowers with $99.00 tin cans from China, and buy them now on credit. Some call that progress, others, value. In reality, it's inflation. The simple fact of the matter is Americans no longer have the disposable income to consume their way out of trouble, and that trouble lies in why it is the American middle class is broke, struggling, and increasingly angry. At the same time that consumables were falling in price, the fixed portions of the American Dream began an exponential increase. Two incomes meant two cars - or three, or four - and despite the fact that cars were cheaper, the cost of cars to the two-income family rose by 52%. Houses got bigger, and mortgages increased 76% - with 10 million of them in various states of distress and foreclosure. Health insurance rose 76%, taxes 25%. Childcare was an expense nobody had a generation ago, but one that became essential with two adults working. The cost of education had increased - as did the length of time necessary to obtain that education. A ticket to the middle class that cost 12 years of school - grade one through high school - now includes daycare, preschool, grade school, high school, and then college. Americans must now pay for the additional time. In 2005, that .09% of the earth that set the agenda for the planet was spending over 66% of its income on the fixed costs of the American dream alone, where it once spent less than a third. Or, to frame it in a way that defines the great problem, the American system that depends on rabid consumerism has left its heartland with exponentially decreasing amounts of disposable income, falling from 66% to 33% in a single lifetime. When George W Bush implored the middle class to spend its way out of the 9/11 chaos, in stunned and terrified whispers the American middle class muttered, "With what?" "The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country"- Edward Bernays, 1928
So, we have an economy completely dependent on a middle-class buying stuff and we have a disappearing middle class. Manufacturing is the same percentage of GDP that's it's been for years it's just the manufacturing companies don't need near the number of employees to make things. Another difference is that the stuff we build now people don't, or can't afford to buy - new cars, planes, etc. So corporations race to the bottom to make all the cheaper crap we can actually afford overseas to sell at Walmart so the Walton's can practice their own form of trickle down economics by practicing philanthropy with their billions rather than paying their people living wage jobs. We're going to have to change our measures of success and there are good folks out there doing helping folks prepare for this, all the voluntary simplicity folks, the early retirement extreme folks, etc. (One question that intriques me is when we'll get rid of the reality shows and professional sports that imply success has something to do with the accumulation of money.) The power elite know the "growth" scam has run it's course, so what do they do? They get one of their accolytes to break the news - the NYT's David Brooks - A Small Happy Life -
A few weeks ago, I asked readers to send in essays describing their purpose in life and how they found it. A few thousand submitted contributions, and many essays are online. I’ll write more about the lessons they shared in the weeks ahead, but one common theme surprised me. I expected most contributors would follow the commencement-speech clich├ęs of our high-achieving culture: dream big; set ambitious goals; try to change the world. In fact, a surprising number of people found their purpose by going the other way, by pursuing the small, happy life. Elizabeth Young once heard the story of a man who was asked by a journalist to show his most precious possession. The man, Young wrote, “was proud and excited to show the journalist the gift he had been bequeathed. A banged up tin pot he kept carefully wrapped in cloth as though it was fragile. The journalist was confused, what made this dingy old pot so valuable? ‘The message,’ the friend replied. The message was ‘we do not all have to shine.’ This story resonated deeply. In that moment I was able to relieve myself of the need to do something important, from which I would reap praise and be rewarded with fulfillment. My vision cleared.” Young continues, “I have always wanted to be effortlessly kind. I wanted to raise children who were kind.” She notes that among those who survived the Nazi death camps, a predominant quality she noticed was generosity.“Perhaps,” she concludes, “the mission is not a mission at all. ... Everywhere there are tiny, seemingly inconsequential circumstances that, if explored, provide meaning” and chances to be generous and kind. Spiritual and emotional growth happens in microscopic increments. Kim Spencer writes, “I used to be one of the solid ones — one of the people whose purpose was clearly defined and understood. My purpose was seeing patients and ‘saving lives.’ I have melted into the in-between spaces, though. Now my purpose is simply to be the person ... who can pick up the phone and give you 30 minutes in your time of crisis. I can give it to you today and again in a few days. ... I can edit your letter. ... I can listen to you complain about your co-worker. ... I can look you in the eye and give you a few dollars in the parking lot. I am not upset if you cry. I am no longer drowning, so I can help keep you afloat with a little boost. Not all of the time, but every once in a while, until you find other people to help or a different way to swim. It is no skin off my back; it is easy for me.” Terence J. Tollaksen wrote that his purpose became clearer once he began to recognize the “decision trap”: “This trap is an amazingly consistent phenomena whereby ‘big’ decisions turn out to have much less impact on a life as a whole than the myriad of small seemingly insignificant ones.”Tollaksen continues, “I have always admired those goal-oriented, stubborn, successful, determined individuals; they make things happen, and the world would be lost without them.” But, he explains, he has always had a “small font purpose.” Hans Pitsch wrote: “At age 85, the question of meaning in my life is urgent. The question of the purpose of my life is another matter. World War II and life in general have taught me that outcomes from our actions or inactions are often totally unpredictable and random.”He adds, “I am thankful to be alive. I have a responsibility to myself and those around me to give meaning to my life from day to day. I enjoy my family (not all of them) and the shrinking number of old friends. You use the term ‘organizing frame’ in one’s life. I am not sure if I want to be framed by an organizing principle, but if there is one thing that keeps me focused, it’s the garden. Lots of plants died during the harsh winter, but, amazingly, the clematises and the roses are back, and lettuce, spinach and tomatoes are thriving in the new greenhouse. The weeping cherry tree in front of the house succumbed to old age. I still have to plant a new tree this year.” This scale of purpose is not for everyone, but there is something beautiful and concrete and well-proportioned about tending that size of a garden.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Obama got your guns yet?

Do some Google searches just for kicks... Obama and guns; Obama and socialism; Obama and economy... note the predictions of many and the language of some to this day - Obama is coming for your guns, Obama will ruin the economy and will take money from the rich and give to the poor via welfare, redistribution, etc. But, what has happened? Any significant redistribution from rich to poor? Uh, no actually and very clearly it is the opposite. Any significant effort to take guns away? Uh, no, but gun advocacy groups and gun manufacturers sure are making a lot of money... almost like they want to encourage a scarcity mindset, nah they wouldn't do that... would they? And the economy. Well, the facts are that the economy still sucks for the poor and the middle-class is shrinking, while the rich are getting richer. Obama is clearly a failed socialist. But, this last point is really the point... the economy has gotten worse for blue-collar workers in American and that is either the fault of an economic blend of Globalization, Technology, and Demographics on the global scale, or it's the fault of some politicians. Should have fought NAFTA some argued, but look at the GDP created by manufacturing created in the US over the last 30 years, it hasn't changed. We still make stuff here, it just takes less people to make stuff, thanks to technological changes. The next time you hear someones scare tactics about what Obama is going to do... remember it is a scary world we are in, but not because of Obama... it's a scary world because of people looking for scapegoats and person's to blame for their own benefit, rather than solutions that will benefit everyone.

 Image result for obama got your guns yet

Sunday, April 26, 2015

"What the Real Ones Can Be..."

A couple of recent pieces of interest - NYT - What Drives the Bile Against Obama? responses to an earlier piece A New Phase in Anti-Obama Attacks, linked in the piece above. Both worth reading, and both remind me of a quote from Hitchens I've linked to in other blog post -
...Christopher Hitchens, in this brilliant piece, asks it better than I can, "What does it take to believe that Christianity is an endangered religion in America or that the name of Jesus is insufficiently spoken or appreciated? Who wakes up believing that there is no appreciation for our veterans and our armed forces and that without a noisy speech from Sarah Palin, their sacrifice would be scorned?" And then ask the tough question - "It's not unfair to say that such grievances are purely and simply imaginary, which in turn leads one to ask what the real ones can be."
And this from Eric Alterman - A Wake-Up Call for US Liberals
Obama no doubt intended to demonstrate his desire to reach across the ideological divide and engage his neoconservative critics in a healthy debate. Conservatives saw a president they could roll. Part of the problem was Obama’s misplaced confidence that he could heal the divisions forged in the Bush era. A second complication arose from his unique position as the first African-American president. But the fundamental problem was a much deeper one that, in retrospect, has come to define US politics in the Obama era and remains the greatest obstacle to liberal progress.
Today’s conservative intellectuals aren’t even bothering to offer “irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas.” Instead, they’re making calculated attempts to undermine our democracy, exploiting and manipulating a public that has decreasing resources for the kind of reliable information that would lead to a pragmatic “liberal” response. It’s time we woke up to that reality while we still have a country—and a planet—left to save.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Someone to blame

Mostly, though, what Americans seem to want, based on our hardcover purchases, is some way to beg, borrow, or steal our way back to the good life. We want someone to blame. We want someone to fix things. Republicans have capitalized most effectively on this longing, and have gained far more leverage from it over the years than Democrats, because they trust former neurosurgeons, TV-talk-show hosts, bloggers, radio personalities, and pretty much anyone who’s ever appeared on Fox News to hold forth on the lost American dream.
Heather Havrilesky Mansplanation Nation: How two decades of nonfiction best sellers teem with fake self-assurance—and testosterone __________________________________________________________________________________________________We just want someone to blame, someone to make things like they used to be... most of us get dragged kicking and streaming through this aging process, things were easier and simpler when mom told us when to go to bed and Ronald Reagan told us we were the best darn country in the world. And that basic formula worked for all the generations that we've known on a personal basis or the one's our parents knew. For a little over 100 years we were on a national plateau where things developed incrementally and for most people, things got incrementally better. It's not working like that now, and probably never will again. Which is making everyone freak out and as Havrilesky says, looking for someone to blame. Radical fundamentalist Muslims want to blame non-Muslims, Leftist want to blame Corporations, Fundamentalist Republicans want to blame poor people and Obama. And the great challenge is the last 100 years haven't prepared us to cooperate or collaborate to find solutions and deal with exponential changes. We've been programmed to compete, not partner.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Michael Lewis in The New Republic

Michael Lewis review of Billionaire's: Reflections on the Upper Crust. A couple of quotes I would highlight - First, on Bode Miller's grandfather:
"When I was fourteen I met a man with a talent for restoring a sense of fairness to a society with vast and growing inequalities in wealth. His name was Jack Kenney and he’d created a tennis camp, called Tamarack, in the mountains of northern New Hampshire."... "He ran his tennis camp less as a factory for future champions than as an antidote to American materialism—and also to the idea that a person could be at once successful and selfish. (You can still hear his quixotic suspicion of conventional success echoed in his grandson, the Olympic champion Bode Miller, who grew up on the campsite.)" Jack Kenney’s assault on teenaged American inequality began at breakfast the first morning. The bell clanged early, and the kids all rolled out of their old stained bunk beds, scratched their fresh mosquito bites, and crawled to the dining hall. On each table were small boxes of cereal, enough for each kid to have one box, but not enough that everyone could have the brand of cereal he wanted. There were Fruit Loops and Cheerios, but also more than a few boxes of the deadly dark bran stuff consumed willingly only by old people suffering from constipation. On the second morning, when the breakfast bell clanged, a mad footrace ensued. Kids sprung from their bunks and shot from cabins in the New Hampshire woods to the dining hall. The winners got the Fruit Loops, the losers a laxative. By the third morning, it was clear that, in the race to the Fruit Loops, some kids had a natural advantage. They were bigger and faster; or their cabins were closer to the dining hall; or they just had that special knack some people have for getting whatever they want. Some kids would always get the Fruit Loops, and others would always get the laxative. Life was now officially unfair. After that third breakfast, Kenney called an assembly on a hill overlooking a tennis court. He was unkempt and a bit odd; wisps of gray hair crossed his forehead and he looked as if he hadn’t bathed in a week. He was also kind and gentle and funny, and kids instantly sensed that he was worth listening to, and wanted to hear what he had to say. “You all live in important places surrounded by important people,” he’d begin. “When I’m in the big city, I never understand the faces of the people, especially the people who want to be successful. They look so worried! So unsatisfied!” Here his eyes closed shut and his hands became lobster claws, pinching and grasping the air in front of him. “In the city you see people grasping, grasping, grasping. Taking, taking, taking. And it must be so hard! To be always grasping-grasping, and taking-taking. But no matter how much they have, they never have enough. They’re still worried. About what they don’t have. They’re always empty.” Eyes closed, talking as much to himself as to us, he described the life of not-so-quiet desperation until every kid on the hill wondered what this had to do with the two-handed backhand. Then he opened his eyes and finished: “You have a choice. You don’t realize it, but you have a choice. You can be a giver or you can be a taker. You can get filled up or empty. You make that choice every day. You make that choice at breakfast when you rush to grab the cereal you want so others can’t have what they want.” And then he moved on to why no one should ever hit a two-handed backhand—while every kid on the hill squirmed and reddened and glanced at each other, wondering if everyone else realized what an asshole he’d been. On the fourth morning, no one ate the Fruit Loops. Kids were thrusting the colorful boxes at each other and leaping on the constipation cereal like war heroes jumping on hand grenades. In a stroke, the texture of life in this tennis camp had changed, from a chapter out of Lord of the Flies to the feeling between the lines of Walden. Even the most fantastically selfish kids did what they could to contribute to the general welfare of the place, and there was not a shred of doubt that everyone felt happier for it. The distinction between haves and have-nots, winners and losers, wasn’t entirely gone, of course. But it became less important than this other distinction, between the givers and the takers."
Lewis also highlights research on the wealthy which is fascinating, but this quote to me is the most accurate and important, and one for all their bloviating is hardest to remember -
"Rich people, in my experience, don’t want to change the world. The world as it is suits them nicely."