Friday, July 04, 2014

(In)Dependence Day 2014: Freedom from Pain, or Freedom from Dysfunction?

Having surrendered our independence for the quick, easy fix, we will inevitably surrender our health, liberty and freedom.

As we celebrate the declaration of political independence from Empire today, a question arises: how independent are we today in our day-to-day lives? The flip side of independence is dependence: not just on Empire, but on painkillers, central banks, government intervention, silence, complicity.

Dependence limits freedom. The dependent person, household or nation cannot truly be free; their actions and choices are severely limited, and the deeper their dependence, the greater the erosion of their will to become less dependent.

People speak of the cost of independence and liberty in militaristic terms. But in day-to-day life, independence boils down to not being dependent on systems you have no control over.

Independence isn't taken from us; we surrender it. We surrender it for all kinds of reasons; it's often easier to accept dependence than struggle to maintain our independence.

Our culture has developed a self-destructive response to pain: we want any sort of pain, physical, spiritual, financial, to go away immediately and magically. We don't care about the mechanism, just make it go away.

But pain is not just a random event: it's a message that we need to listen to. Pain communicates that something is damaged, dysfunctional, not working or in conflict. Pain tells us we need to understand the sources of the pain and seek a systemic solution.

There are many sources of physical and mental pain, and they cannot be lumped into one category. But in all cases, there are systems and there are sources of the pain, and since life, ecosystems, economies and organisms are complex interactive systems of systems, there is often not one source but multiple layers of interacting sources.

Consider the common ailment of back pain. I've suffered from it, as have many people. While there are many potential sources and causes, we're designed to prefer the easiest, quickest fix, which is generally a painkiller pill.

The quick fix does not address the source or solve the underlying problem: it simply makes the symptoms go away. It eliminates the message that something's wrong and needs to be addressed in a fundamental way.

A great many back problems arise from lack of fitness, poor habits and being overweight. In many cases, the long-term solution requires a complete revamping of habits, diet, fitness, and a reworking of our understanding of the mind/body system.

This is a lot more trouble than taking a pill, so many of us resist changing all these major systems that affect each other within the overall system of our well-being.

But eliminating the message and the symptoms doesn't fix anything. What it does do is make us dependent on the fix. A dose of highly addictive heroin is called a fix for good reason: like any other painkiller, the addict depends on it to fix the pain and the symptoms that are shouting that something's terribly wrong.

This is why I call the Federal Reserve's interventions monetary heroin: the global financial meltdown caused pain, and rather than deal with the sources of financial dysfunction, the Fed chose the highly addictive fix of zero interest rates, unlimited credit and easy money.

Every month, the Fed mainlines this fix into the financial system to make the pain go away: the pain that's telling us the system is broken, dysfunctional, destructive.

And so now we're hooked, dependent: whether we understand it or not, we have surrendered our independence and our ability to learn from pain and directly address the sources of the dysfunction.

Free money, in all its guises--welfare, corporate welfare, subsidies, tax breaks, bribes--is the easy fix, the easy pill that makes the symptoms go away.

What happens to systems that ignore symptoms? They break. Whatever is causing the pain continues unaddressed, and so it gets worse. Making the symptoms go away doesn't fix the underlying causes; in a terrible irony, it enables the problem to spread and grow even more destructive.

Becoming dependent on the fixes issued by the Federal Reserve and the central state does not solve the problems causing the pain; it simply makes us dependent on the quick, easy opiate.

Having surrendered our independence for the quick, easy financial fix, we will inevitably surrender our health, liberty and independence. Our democracy has already been gutted by the financial fix, and our claims of independence ring hollow.

Do we want to be free from political and financial pain, or free from systemic dysfunction? To truly be free, we must first free ourselves from dysfunction and the siren-song of dependence on the quick, easy and oh-so addictive fix.

Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy(Kindle, $9.95)(print, $20)
go to Kindle editionAre you like me? 

Ever since my first summer job decades ago, I've been chasing financial security. Not win-the-lottery, Bill Gates riches (although it would be nice!), but simply a feeling of financial control. I want my financial worries to if not disappear at least be manageable and comprehensible.

And like most of you, the way I've moved toward my goal has always hinged not just on having a job but a career.

You don't have to be a financial blogger to know that "having a job" and "having a career" do not mean the same thing today as they did when I first started swinging a hammer for a paycheck.

Even the basic concept "getting a job" has changed so radically that jobs--getting and keeping them, and the perceived lack of them--is the number one financial topic among friends, family and for that matter, complete strangers.

So I sat down and wrote this book: Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy.

It details everything I've verified about employment and the economy, and lays out an action plan to get you employed.

I am proud of this book. It is the culmination of both my practical work experiences and my financial analysis, and it is a useful, practical, and clarifying read.

Test drive the first section and see for yourself.     Kindle, $9.95     print, $20

"I want to thank you for creating your book Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy. It is rare to find a person with a mind like yours, who can take a holistic systems view of things without being captured by specific perspectives or agendas. Your contribution to humanity is much appreciated."
Laura Y.

Gordon Long and I discuss The New Nature of Work: Jobs, Occupations & Careers (25 minutes, YouTube) 

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