Monthly Archives: February 2012

Starlog Magazine – February 1983 or a Nerdgasm of 30 years Past

Since at least some small part of this audience is interested in the scifi babblings I started out with, it would be remiss of me to not post a link to today’s post in Golden Oldies Ads.  Enjoy if so inclined.  Ignore if not.

Starlog Magazine – February 1983 or a Nerdgasm of 30 years Past

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The Meaning of Life – At Work

Yesterday’s post brought many old streams of cogitation to the forefront of my mind.  Among them was the age-old question of just why it is that we work and how best we should go about it.  Clearly this is a question with as many answers as there are people to whom to ask the question but I think that one can hash out the possible answers into a fairly small number of categories which will allow us to more easily analyze the benefits of each.  So firstly, the categories as I see them:

The Bee

Like its namesake, the bee is a busy, busy person.  I imagine the bee in a profession like Project Management that is, for all intents and purposes, infinitely extensible.  By day, the bee is a professional Project Manager for 60+ hours a week.  The bee’s hobbies include studying for Project Management certifications and going to dinner parties where they can hear about job opportunities in Project Management and the latest certifications in Project Management.  Conversation with the bee, even outside of work, tends to be about Project Management with the occasional anecdote about how much extra money the bee has because there’s just no time to spend it between work and studying.  The bees are consummate professionals who are highly respected in their fields but typically work alone.  Every scientist you’ve ever heard of was probably a bee.

The Bonobo

The bonobo, like his apiarian counterparts, goes to work and gets the job done.  He puts in his time and when that final whistle blows and it’s time to go home he finds a way to kick back and relax.  In today’s culture it’s likely that a bonobo will go home, watch some television, play with the kids and maybe play a video game or two and get up the next morning refreshed and relaxed and ready to go at it again.  There’s a time for work and there’s a time for fun and bonobos know how (and when) to have fun whether it’s going to the monster truck rally or kicking back to watch that Doctor Who marathon.  Bonobos are warm and relatable and tend to have lots of personal connections. While bonobos aren’t as dedicated as the bees, they tend to be better workers in general because their strong relationships with other people in the company make them great collaborators.

The Scholar

Scholars share some characteristics with their bee and bonobo counterparts but the motivations for working are derived from completely different sources.  While the bee works because that’s just what the bee IS and the bonobo is “working for the weekend” the scholar is working for the purposes of pursuing something that the bonobos would regard as just more work but of a different type.  Scholars are hooked on the adrenaline of accomplishment and work is just a vehicle to get that shot of adrenaline and also provide resources so they can pursue the other 27 work-like things that they do.  You can always tell the bonobos from the scholars on the beach.  The bonobos are relaxing in a chair soaking up the sun.  The scholars are scouring the beach with a metal detector while picking up broken glass so nobody cuts themselves and simultaneously trying to get a perfect photo of the sunset.  To the bonobo, relaxation means doing nothing.  To the scholar, relaxation means doing something different.

The Sloth

I should start in describing the sloth by saying that the name isn’t intended to be a disparagement of this class of people.  Quite the contrary, the sloth is a solid and efficient form of life and so is the human sloth of my imaginings here.  While the other classes work regularly and out of habit, the sloth works only when absolutely necessary.  It’s probable that the sloth has other interests but that they’re not of a nature that would be lucrative enough to sustain the sloth, usually of an artistic bent.  For the sloth the working world is a place to be visited on a periodic basis as needed rather than a habitual place of habitation.  Luckily, or perhaps as a result of perpetual penury, the sloth’s material needs are few and simple and so they live relatively carefree and quiet lives.

Personally, I can see varying degrees of value in each category above.  The bees are steadfast adherents to a cause and they throw themselves into their line of work with absolute abandon.  We owe a lot to the bees because they’re the innovators who really push the world forward.  However, there’s a flip side to this in that sometimes you get a bee when you need a bonobo.  If you’re doing ground-breaking work in genetics, be a bee.  If you’re an accountant in a large corporation then taking on bee-like characteristics is likely to make you more rogue than anything else.  There’s a time for exploring and forging ahead solo and there’s a time for collaborating.  Bees can have a tendency to confuse the two much to the detriment of their (forgive me) hive.

I have to admit that I consider myself in the scholar category.  I want to know and explore and see everything possible and the thought of just sitting on the beach doing nothing absolutely makes my soul ache.  The benefits of the scholar in the workplace are many.  Scholars are better rounded and tend to excel less in specific areas but make up for it by having a wider range of skills that can be brought to bear on a business problem.  They can be assigned to a myriad of job duties and not only tolerate but also enjoy that level of job fragmentation.  Like the bee though there are pitfalls to be aware of.  Making personal connections outside the work setting can be difficult since the scholar typically has difficulty relating to bonobos and even to other scholars.  Discovery of common interests can be prohibitively difficult when there is so much from which to choose.  No matter the depth of one’s knowledge of Marchantiophyta it is exceptionally difficult to leverage those tidbits of knowledge to strike up a conversation with someone who enjoyed the newest Fox sitcom the night before and has an insatiable itch to talk about it.  Because of this disconnectedness collaboration can suffer and scholars in a larger group setting will be less efficient than their bonobo counterparts.

Lastly, we turn our attention to the humble sloth.  In some ways that lifestyle with its minimal needs is very appealing to me.  This is probably at least in part because my interests are primarily of a sort that require more time than money to pursue them.  Give me a camera, an internet connection and a forest to tromp around in and I’m as content as I’d care to be.  So the idea of taking a more work-minimal attitude towards life isn’t altogether unappealing.  More time for tromping, after all!

So, now that I’ve blathered on for what must seem like forever, what say you?  Do you fit any of the categories above?  If not, what category would we need to add to complete the picture?  Is your category different from what you would LIKE your category to be


Filed under work

Out with the Old – Goodbye 7835

It’s Thursday night and I don’t have an office to go to tomorrow.  Today was the last day for my current place of employment, T2 Systems, in our old building and tomorrow the whole company will be working remotely in quiet preparation for the move into the new office on Monday.  Leaving my location of employment for the past eight years has called up no small number of reminiscences.  You don’t work somewhere for the better part of a decade without building up a lot of feelings about the place though admittedly even looking back at my blog entries of the time it’s hard to put together a suitably reliable timeline.  However, for my own posterity I will attempt to do so lest I forget it permanently.  This may be understandably dull to the point of tears for many of you unlucky enough to read it, but I write not only for you but for future me.  I will endeavor to minimize the lachrymal invocations.

The story begins, if my math is to be believed, late in 2003.  I was hired away from a rather tired and inscrutable company that did some sort of insurance(?) to be a web developer under my old boss, Chris, who was also my manager at Software Artistry/IBM/Tivoli/Peregrine.  (Ah, what halcyon days were those when one’s place of work could so repeatedly change names without actually changing locations.)  When I first started at T2 the company was a tiny intimate place and I utterly and completely failed to fit in.  Sure I came to work and did what was expected and did it well but I was figuratively and literally stuffed off into a corner with nobody else around.  I still remember coming to work for weeks and ticking off on a piece of paper how many days it had been since I’d spoken to anyone but my boss.  It was just as miserable and isolated as I have ever felt in my entire life.  The company was tiny, everyone there already had their place and their clique so this socially awkward developer dude didn’t stand a chance.  Even to this day after working here for so long I still think I’m viewed with some suspicion because of those formative years when I was just a haunting ghost in the office with no perceived personality.  At any rate, analysis of personal dynamics aside, those first two years were painful ones.  Or, to slip temporarily into the vulgar vernacular, they fucking sucked.  Big time.

Moving along, late in 2005 I arranged with the company to telecommute.  Having no real connections in the office aside from Chris this wasn’t a particularly hard decision.   Better to sit at home alone than sit at work alone, no?  So I packed up my scant office belongings and set myself to work from the upstairs spare bedroom.  This went on until early in 2008 and while it was not nearly as soul-singeing as the previous two years it was still a period of vast personal stagnation.  Trapped in a tiny pool with few outside contacts my life could have utterly wasted away if it had been allowed to continue.

What eventually drew me back to the office seems almost like a miracle.  While still working remotely I managed to make a personal connection with someone in the office despite my own perpetual non-presence. Whether this was because my psyche had grown impossibly hungry for friendship or that I finally stumbled upon a compatible soul is difficult to say.  Whatever the case though, it drew me back to the office and whetted my appetite to actually interact with other people.  The most important part was that by actually making a connection I had some reasonable reassurance that I was a person worth interacting with.  Years of isolation had very nearly convinced me that I was not particularly worthy of anyone’s attention.  That caused me to withdraw even further and thus perpetuate the situation.  By finally having one friend I managed to build enough self-confidence to start having relationships with a few other people.  This is not to say that I’ve mastered the art but I’m at least able to carry on a semi-reasonable conversation.

With my reintroduction to the office we enter the modern era.  The past four years have seen me through some spectacularly interesting times personally and in every case the only real constant in life was 7835 Woodland Drive.  In the time I’ve been there I can’t help but feel that I’ve really come of age and become as close to normal as is probably reasonable to hope for.  Eight years ago I sat in a cube in the corner scared to get up and go to the loo by a certain route for fear of meeting someone in the hallway.  My isolation was complete and self-imposed and torturous and it was all brought about by a gnawing sense of self-doubt and personal worthlessness.  “What could I possibly have to say that anybody would want to listen to?” my addled mind questioned.

Today I feel well-integrated with my own small corner of the company though I do regret that my connections with others outside my corner are non-existent or weak at best.  I still feel a great sense of distance between me and the majority of the company and I have absolutely no clue what to do about it.  Bridging those personal gaps takes a skill that I haven’t yet mastered.  I’m still an outsider but at least I’m not alone in the corner any longer.

What newness will the new building bring? What new opportunities will arise?  What new connections will be made?  I don’t know. But time will tell and the journey to the future begins on Monday.

Normally…. I’d end with the previous paragraph.  It concludes with a rather saccharine upturn of hopefulness and optimism but I’m struck with another thought that’s only remotely related to the rest of this post.  The question is… what part does this blog play in my personal dynamics with others at work?  It has to be admitted that I do tend to lay some pretty raw stuff out there.  I don’t pull any punches and that has to have an impact on those who read it especially when they also have to go to work the next day and look me in the face.

If I had to guess, the impact is probably an acutely polarizing one.  Someone who works with me on a regular basis would probably read this and have one of two distinct reactions.  The first, of course, would be to mutter “what the HELL?” under their breath and devise ways in which they can never lay eyes on me again.  Some really dislike dealing with other people’s emotions so they stay as far away from them as possible.  The analogy that comes to mind is that of a hot stove.  The stove is hot, don’t touch!

The second reaction (at least one hopes) is to have some deeper appreciation for what I’m putting out here and to realize that contrary to some popular opinions at work I really do have a soul.  I’ve been told from time to time that there are those in my workplace that just plain dislike me.  I’ll admit that in every possible way that absolutely intrigues me.  I spend a lot of time trying to imagine what psychological process has to occur for someone to actively dislike me.  People do tend to mistrust an enigma but to extend that to the point of actual personal dislike of someone?  Just plain odd.  Further, I can’t really be all THAT enigmatic given the thousands and thousands of words I’ve pumped out on this blog with utter lack of restraint and sometimes even common sense.

OK, it’s late and I’ve really made a mess of this post.  The original intent has been lost, my writing style has slipped into the mud and I’ve meandered into some bizarre work-centered psychological self-assessment.  Suffice it to say that the last eight years have been interesting and diverse ones.  Let’s hope for eight more as entertaining and perhaps to get invited to a few more parties.  Or, more accurately speaking, let’s hope to get up the nerve to actually GO to a few more parties after having being invited.


Filed under work

So What Now?

As preamble I should say that over the years I’ve noticed that the blog posts that turn out best are typically those which I have the most reticence to write.  This is a post that I have a LOT of reluctance to even broach so it’s assuredly going to be one riot of a result!

Firstly, a bit of background.  I’ve worked for my current place of employment for eight years and in that time I’ve gone from developer to architect for the product to team lead for the team.  I’m that solid ever-present denizen of the company who states quite clearly that he’ll do whatever it is the team needs him to do.  Getting close to product release and need code?  On it.  Product support needs assistance?  I’m there.  Need someone to manage work in your release?  Already doing it.  This is not to say that I’m some mindless automaton.  I’m also the first person to look at his boss and say, “I just spent 50 hours finishing up work that I shouldn’t have had to do.  Can we plan a bit better next time?”  Ultimately though, I’m a “do whatever it takes” sort of guy.  Solve the problem.  Bitch about it later if you really feel it’s necessary.

Recently when the management position became available in my department I waffled back and forth in my head for a while and finally applied.  I reasoned that in no small part I was already doing a lot of managerial work anyway, so it only made sense to actually have the title.  Over the next couple months the interview process dragged on and on and we found a couple of what seemed like reasonable candidates aside from me but it was about this time that the world caught fire.  Well, let’s be honest, the world’s always on fire but the world seemed even more on fire than usual.  I found myself doing one of those jobs that I shouldn’t ever have to do and that I’d been promised, literally years ago, that we would “find someone to take care of” and by god here I was doing it again!  As I was taking care of this bit of unexpected tedium, I realized my work life was spread out over three different jobs.  I was still the developer.  I was still the architect.  I was still the team lead.  Could I really reasonably add manager to that list and hope to ever have any peace at all?  If my previous bosses hadn’t managed to have any success centralizing my job duties into one reasonably-sized position with literally decades of managerial experience and much more influence than I would ever wield then what chance did I have at accomplishing that task for myself?

It was with that realization that I withdrew myself from consideration for the position.  Now though, on a bright and clear Saturday morning, I find myself with a feeling akin to post-partum depression.  This time last week I had new challenges and interests on the horizon.  Today I have the same doldrums and ennui to look forward to that I’ve had week after week for eight years.  From a strictly logical standpoint I still believe it to be the right decision.  The team will be better off in the long term with a new manager from the outside to infuse new ideas and incrementally bring about change.  The team will be better off with me there to sweep up the tidbits and handle the overflow from whatever goes wrong.  The company will be better off having me as a resource rather than a manager.

From my viewpoint though, work life looks boring as fuck.  When the workweek resumes I’ll go back to the exact same thing I’ve been doing for years, doing all the bits and pieces that nobody else really wants.  When the new manager comes in he will probably rightfully take some of the more interesting bits of my job over for himself and the saturation of dullness will rise.  If I’m exceptionally lucky he’ll actually figure out how all the bits and pieces should be properly handled and run me out of a job entirely.  That last bit was maudlin, so strike it from your memories, but it’s a possibility albeit remote.  The more succinct point here is that the cliché “the good of the many is more important than the good of the one” can tend to leave the one feeling rather … well, unamused.

To flip this on its head, I will acknowledge that I still derive great joy from “doing.”  While I refer to my work as “bits and pieces” and “overflow” (all while imagining a plugged toilet flushed one too many times) I really do get a lot of satisfaction from getting things done and when allowed to actually concentrate on something I’m a hell of a “doer”.  It must be admitted though that the satisfaction of doing is a very short-term narcotic and there’s only a small difference between busting your ass to help someone and becoming their slave.  The joy of doing requires the catalyst of appreciation to be completely effective.

So do I regret not becoming the manager or at least letting that play out?  A bit.  All the “what if” scenarios do run through my head and the logic of my underlying assertions are a thin balm for the loss of my aspirations.   However I think I do need to remind myself of something I’m often called upon to tell my co-workers.  Ultimate satisfaction with life and self cannot be derived from work.  Work is merely a necessity, a means to an end.  Most of my maudlin meandering stems from a misplaced desire to assign unnecessary meaning to what is really a trivial necessity of life.  Can I perform my duties and continue to get paid the necessary money to live the rest of my life?  Yes.  End of questions.  Let’s use the rest of the day to do something we really give a shit about.


Filed under personal, work

Any $50,000 a Year Programmer…

In a job I held long, long ago I had a boss who liked to strut around the office and proclaim, “You’d better get to work!  I could get any $50,000 a year programmer to do your job.”  I worked under this guy for six rather annoyed months and in that time I rewrote the product that was the heart of their business.  Before I arrived it was written in VB6 and by the time I’d left the whole system was completely redesigned from the ground up in .NET.  Ten years of evolution happened in six months and I was the go-to guy for everything because I’d written the whole blasted system.  Unfortunately for our blow-hard boss, when a better opportunity came along I took it and my resignation letter read simply:

“I hereby tender my resignation.  While this would be seen as a regrettable circumstance by most companies I am abundantly reassured by the fact that you can, in fact, find any $50,000 a year programmer to do my job.  I wish you the best of luck.”

The company was a tiny little outfit with an entrepreneurial spirit and aside from the boss’s attitude I rather liked the place.  It was a pity to leave in some ways.  My absence was clearly felt as they did contact me for several months asking if I needed a job.  Fortified by previous experience with the boss, I stated simply that I was doing just fine without them.

I sincerely wish that I could say that I felt the attitude above was an uncommon one but it seems to be the predominant view among leadership within companies.  If you ask an executive which would hurt the company more, the departure of an executive or the departure of a senior engineer who served the company for a decade and designed their systems they’ll inevitably value the executive more highly.  All this despite the fact that the skills of leadership are fairly interchangeable between companies while the knowledge of a seasoned engineer is at least in part specific to the company or products they service.  A good manager is a good manager no matter where you put them.  When your senior engineer walks out the door he takes a decade of proprietary knowledge with him.  That knowledge will take 10 years to grow back yet in many cases the value placed on it is absolutely nothing.

What’s most stunning to me is that the problem seems most predominant in the cases where job knowledge is most important.  The more poorly documented your product is and the more it relies on the ‘tribal knowledge’ of the employees to keep things running, the less respect the old-time engineers seem to get.  The company I used to work for is a classic case in point.  The entire staff consisted of seven people servicing million dollar contracts.  When I left, that probably set the company back 6-12 months.  Since they were only paying a pittance for programmers, of course they got the bottom of the barrel.  I saw this first hand as employees rolled in… and then, like the tide, rolled right back out again.  When it comes to the hiring process you really, Really, REALLY get what you pay for.   There are no bargains in the world of employment.  You might occasionally catch someone between jobs but you’re never going to keep them long and when they leave you’re right back where you started.

As with any problem, I like to look for the causality behind it.  How can companies so blatantly disregard the intellectual capitol that they have in their staffs?  At the risk of being cynical, I think most of it boils down to simple ego.  The average executive would rather lose an important employee than admit that some non-executive plebe might be more important or have more to offer the company than a manager.  You don’t get to be an executive by having an excess of humility after all.  In the case of my former boss, he thought he was the end-all and be-all of the business world.  As a result he rolled through employees year after year.  He’s getting by, but how much better off could he be if he just doled out a modicum of respect to those who work for him?  We all have our contributions to make and recognizing those goes a long way.

The analogy that comes to mind here is that of a vast forest ecosystem.  The executives are the tall, noble trees of the woodland.  They take much of the sunlight and the glory.  They’re the ones that everyone comes to see and oooohhh and aaaahhh over.  The workers are the dwellers in the underbrush diligently working away, industriously doing the day-to-day work of the woods.  As workers, we don’t actually mind that the executives take the sunlight.  It’s part of the symbiosis of the system.  You promote while we provide.  All we ask is that you don’t dismiss us.  Even the roots of the tallest tree need the lowly worm to till the soil.  If there were no trees… well, life would go on in the forest.  But without us there would BE no forest.

Executives are born to control.  They want to manage, to move the pieces on the chessboard.  Unfortunately for them, the pieces aren’t made of plastic.  They don’t just do whatever you tell them to.  Otherwise, management would be far too simple.  Instead it’s a system of give and take in which the employees must feel respected and valued or else they’ll take their contributions elsewhere.  A company is the sum of its parts and any company that forgets to respect its workers does so at its dire peril.  Every employee that walks out the front door of your office should be seen as a failure of management.  If they didn’t stay long at all, you failed to hire the right person.  If they stayed a while and then left, they took a bit of you with them that can never be replaced.  How many bits can you afford to lose?


Filed under personal, work

The Power of Community

I spent the first twenty minutes of writing this blog post babbling on about my recent change of mind about photography.  Is it an art or is it merely capturing what is already there?  The classic create versus capture argument.  I went on for 412 words before I realized that it was all mundane babble.  It was on approximately word 413 that I realized the real significant thing that I was feeling.

It has been my attempt in these blogs to be as forthcoming as I can possibly be.  I’ve shared some deeply personal thoughts and in some cases I’ve been applauded and in some I’ve been deeply scrutinized and put rightly in my place.  I want to be utterly and completely ME in here despite the fact that many, many people I will never meet read what I have to say and many people that I work with every day do too.  I daresay that in some future time a potential employer will read my work and use it to judge my fitness for a new job.  There’s a fair bit at stake here.

What I think is vastly underappreciated about the world of the online is just how much of an impact it has on the writer.  Certainly every writer wants to have an impact on the world outside.  We want to change the planet, to bring new ideas to the fore and make people think… or laugh… or… whatever.  We want to exert our influence outward.  Sometimes though I think it’s missed just how much that outside influences us on the inside.  As of this writing there are hundreds of people who subscribe to this bit of tattered tripe that I call a blog.  WordPress tells me that you’re out there.  If you count Facebook followers, there are thousands of you and every one of you has a voice that shouts loud and clear in my head.

For example… the last time I went out to wander and photograph downtown in the dark, all I could think about was some comment from the photo blog in which someone admonished me that there was “no excuse” for missing a shot because of lighting in this day and age.  Whenever I start to write a new entry on the writing side of things, I think about the blogger who asked if I’d edit their novel once they were done.  There are constantly images of other people’s photos flashing through my mind when I’m out shooting.  The world has an irrefutable and immeasurable influence on everything I do.  I constantly think to myself, “how will I represent this event in my writing?”  I’ll admit openly that I’m utterly and completely obsessed with my own acts of creation online.

All that said, the knowledge that people are watching and reading both motivates me and holds me to a higher standard.  I feel in some odd way that I “owe” you more.  That because you’ve hung on for all this time that I should absolutely bust my ass to do well and bring you knowledge and inspiration and whatever else these blogs provide.  It’s a lot of pressure to be sure but it’s also wonderful in that it gives me an excuse to try to be better.  My creative outlet has an audience that it wouldn’t have otherwise and hopefully as a result it improves by virtue of your feedback both passive and active.

I was asked long ago by a wise person to explain why I bothered to blog at all.  He challenged me to explain why I spent so much time and energy preparing content for an audience so disconnected from me.  I’d like to hope that in a perfect world I could actually build a friendship with those in my audience but ultimately I know that’s unlikely.  The possibility that I will crash on one of my reader’s couches for the night while I’m passing through town seems vanishingly remote.  However, despite the lack of free lodging, I can say with confidence that your participation makes me better and wiser at whatever it is I do online.  You contribute the one thing that I can never get on my own, an unbiased and honest view of my own work.  I’m hopeful that as the decades pass the partnership will be ever richer and more profitable for all involved even if I’m not lucky enough to spend the night on any of my reader’s sofas.



Filed under blogging, personal

Echoes of Orwell

GuardianAs we enter the political season it seems only fitting to repost one of my ancient bits of writing from 2006…

In George Orwell’s 1984, there are only three countries left on the planet. Each controls a third of the landmass of the Earth and they are in the midst of an endless war with each other. It’s a war that none of them can win and they know it. The war exists merely because it must exist to keep the population in line and make sure all their deep and dark emotions are directed at their opponents in war rather than the government which suppresses them.

In 2006, we too have a war. It’s not a war of bombs or missiles but of words. As I write this, our two-party government is waging a fierce war against itself and it’s all done to keep you in line, to keep you feeding it with your votes and your money and your attention. As long as two parties can keep the population of this country looking with disdain at the other side of the political fence they assure themselves a continued place of power.

Their primary weapon in this war is fear and it’s an effective one for both sides. The Democrats will claim vociferously that if Republicans are allowed to run the country that the common man will be enslaved in the sweatshops of Republican-backed big business. A vote for a Republican is a vote to destroy the environment and destroy the right to privacy in America. Republicans, the Democrats cry, are bad for America and they just want to get rich off of your hard work.

The Republicans are no less effective in their fear mongering. If Democrats are allowed into office, there will be homosexual orgies in the streets, illegal aliens will overrun the healthcare system and you won’t even be able to get into a hospital. Democrats want to make America into a Communist country and they want everyone to have an abortion.

The Parties found long ago that you can get people to go the polls and vote with a good idea. You can tell them about all the wonderful things that YOU’LL do if you get elected and people will come out and vote for you. People like to hear about good things that can happen to them; that’s something the average Joe can really get behind. Unfortunately, they’ve also discovered that you can get a lot MORE people to come out and vote if you put a really good scare into them. Tell them about all the dead babies there will be if your opponent is elected. Let them know that their privacy is in jeopardy if they don’t vote for the right person and then the polls will REALLY be overrun with voters.

But all this bickering would be for nothing if not for the third force in our equation. Undisturbed, one party or the other would come to dominate the other until something really attention-grabbing happened to shake up the status quo. The third element in our tug of war is the Media. For the purposes of this discussion, the Media includes all forms of public conversation from the internet to newspapers and even church services.

Despite what Republican pundits will say, the Media doesn’t consistently back any one Party. Some outlets are left-leaning and some right-leaning but overall the entire mass of national conversation on the events of the day is relatively Party neutral. What they are not neutral on, however, is content. The media provides what sells and that is negativity in all its most grotesque forms. No matter who is in power at the time, the media pounds the American psyche with a steady stream of gloom and doom. The Pendulum of Power in this country moves back and forth to the deep resonating cadence of the media’s Bass Drum of Despair.

The Media pounds their drum by filling our heads with an increasing sense of evil and despair in the world. The Republicans take power. The drums say that deviants are everywhere waiting to rape our children. The drums say the economy is spiraling into oblivion. The drums say there is war, disease and poverty everywhere. So the natural reaction of course is to vote the Republicans out of power. This happens despite the fact that the Republicans had absolutely nothing to do with any of the real problems facing this country in the first place.

So now the Democrats are in power. Now the drums pound out the same message. Things are getting worse. The world is falling apart. Our doom is creeping in on us. We have to do something to stop this insanity! So the Pendulum of Power swings yet again on the faulty premise that the state of this country is actually declining.

The simple truth is that America is in better shape than ever. This country is actually purring along at an incredible pace and neither the Republicans nor the Democrats had much to do with it. Political parties don’t make countries. People make countries. The average American is better educated than ever, works harder than ever and lives a more comfortable and secure life than ever. The Media won’t tell you this because it doesn’t sell newspapers. The political parties won’t deliver that message because it doesn’t lead naturally to an argument to vote for one of their candidates.

It’s in the best interest of politicians to keep us at each others throats. The simple truth which they refuse to share is that deep down we all really have the same goals. Republicans don’t want to abort babies and neither do Democrats. No sane person wants to kill a baby but at the same time, nobody wants to carry the child of their rapist either. Republicans don’t want to destroy the environment. They LIVE in the environment just like the rest of us but if it’s a choice between responsible logging and state-wide forest fires then the choice is obvious.

Despite what the brokers of political schism in this country, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Moore and a million other political pundits, might have you believe, deep down inside, we’re all fundamentally the same. I don’t hate you and you don’t hate me. We each just want to get up in the morning, live our lives, make a good living and come home to happy families. That’s it. Period. End of story. Everything else is just media hype.


Filed under literature and books, political