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Well, we started a dialogue in my last thinkpost. The seed of the post was happiness and control of one's own life and environment.

I think there were some exquisitely thought out responses to this, and that just made me think some more.

The idea is to try to inch a little closer to understanding the meaning of what we're doing here, why things are the way they are, discovering methods to improve the situations we are in, and to maybe catch a glimpse of that bigger picture, the ultimate question: Why?

When you're going exploring, like we are, it's important to take inventory before you go, design a plan of action and make certain you have the tools you need to get you to the destination. In our case, we don't have all of that, but what do we have? Our knowledge of human nature, our understanding of the world and the basic physics of it. We know a little bit about psychology, a little about history... a little bio, a little sociology.

What makes a person happy?

Well, before we can be happy, we have to be at a certain level of care. We need food, shelter, water to drink, clean air to breathe, the basics.

So, roughly 50% of the world's population is NOT even at that level. Nearly 1 of every 2 people on this planet don't have "the basics."

I had to take a big pause there. It's staggering to think that half of the world's population is living in such horrible conditions, most of us couldn't bear to SEE it, let alone have to deal with it as a matter of our day-to-day. And really we don't, to a great extent, see it. It's in areas of the world that cameras rarely visit, a place where the Western world has no interest.

To determine happiness, one first needs to know things. And here again, there's a lack. 1 Billion people on the planet are illiterate. But then again, if you aren't able to eat and drink, it's tough to learn a skill like reading. However, that also makes it difficult to get a job to earn money to support yourself and your family and that means you will remain in trouble for the forseeable future.

It's through our education that we can begin to understand a bit about how the world works, who is in charge of it, how much we can do in it and how strong the hold the people in charge have on it.

There is a "survival of the species" element built into us. We want to live, and there is a drive to continue the line. Perhaps the next generation will have it better than the last.

Sex Feels So Good!

Well, it can. Well, for some. Well, it's something to do.

And that's a bit of it. There are no cable tv shows to watch, no great novels to read, no video games, no films, no hobbies nor trivial pursuits to divert and distract people from the extreme horrors of their lives. But there is the feeling of an orgasm.

With it comes new births, and more people born into poverty. When sex is all you have to ease your mind, but ultimately placing even more pressure on the community with the need to provide for more and more people, there is a brutal cycle.

AIDS is claiming lives. Again, not being literate, educated, not having the information needed is the root. Education is a huge part of happiness.

And, of course, there are no handouts. People aren't really being given food to eat and fresh water to drink. They must pay for it somehow. If they have no employable skills, then they are in trouble.

This is a little like a road map through the wilderness, i.e. there is no "road" here. So there are lots of tangents to negotiate, and lots of areas that need to be explored.

So far, we've looked at the Third World, and the situations there, but let's bring it back stateside and see if we can't personalize this a little bit more.

Remember: We're looking for happiness.

Only in America, could a kid who's washing cars, take a giant step and reach right up and touch the stars!

Who is really running America? It's not who you think. There are political leaders, but let's be honest. They don't "run" the country. They represent it.

No. The people that "run" this country are people you probably never hear anything about. They are people who don't ever appear on reality TV shows, or get their names in the tabloids, because you wouldn't know who they were if they did.

They are super moguls. These people run corporations that dwarf Bill Gates. The deals they make, and the money they clear is the stuff of three wish genies.

The question is how orchestrated are our lives? How controlled are we to have to do what we do? And what are offered as distractions so we don't examine the "other stuff" too closely?

The conversation came up about cellular phones. The insidious quality of never being away from a phone, needing to answer it, constantly talking on it. This is a ten year phenomenon people. A decade ago, cell phones were a rarity. Now, everyone has one. And there is the distraction. The never having time to sit and think. That's why these thinkposts are important to me. It's a process. There needs to be time to stop everything and look at where you are. Because if you don't know that, you'll have no idea how to get from there to where you want to go.

Something with an impact like cell phones, DVD players, and iPods certainly give us a feeling. A feeling of empowerment. Being able to play our own music. Owning that whole season of our favorite show. Being able to call anyone, anywhere, or having them able to call us. We're in touch.

I think that sometimes we lose sight of the goal and are sent off on a trip to nowhere. I don't think there's necessarily anything wrong with a detour. But eventually, if you are a thinking person, you do want to get off the starting line and into the race. That needs to be done with some focus.

Our world has some basic laws of physics. Properties that we know and understand. Things in motion tend to stay in motion. Two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time. Sex feels good, and so on. These standards are all a part of the landscape that we deal with in the day to day. These are the unbreakable rules that we exist under, and must relate to our own stories.

So, who's running this world? Certainly not anyone in the Third World. Clearly the members of G8 have some say in it, but again, these people are "representatives," and that's a slightly different animal. The people who run the world are the people with the deepest pockets. They are the people who move the jobs from union shops to underdeveloped countries for pennies on the dollar. They are the people that Chris Rock mentioned in his last HBO special. The people with "wealth," not the people who are "rich." To quote Mr. Rock: "Shaq is rich. The guy who signs his checks is wealthy."

But, clearly, some people thrive under the pressure of needing to achieve. If life was easy, then there would be no desire to give it any effort. Just look to the trustifarians to see the truth in that. The children of the wealthy are burdened with not having to do anything to live well. So, they make bad music, or films no one will see, or videos that get downloaded for everyone to see.

The point is, if you don't have motivation, you don't have much. So, motivation is a key word then.


What motivates people? The need to get "the basics." The desire to do better." "Competition."

Hm. Ok. Competition. Let's go there. This one dates back to Cain and Abel, the original sibling rivals.

Are we natural competitors? It sure seems like it. There are enough sports and games and challenges to keep most everyone busy for the rest of time. We like to compete. There's something that feels good about winning. It makes us feel better about ourselves. It makes us happy.

There's an social element in the competition though. And humans are clearly social. We love to compete but we also love to be around each other.

Which is why this next wave of humans is a little disturbing.

When you have a generation that is getting the bulk of their social cues from internet interaction, things are changing in a drastic and somewhat ugly way.

You can compete with other people in other countries playing a game in real time, and then trash talk them when you win, using a translator program so they hear it in their language. What a great world!

Wanting to win.

There are pleasure centers in the brain that get stimulated when we experience something we enjoy. But not everyone gets the same stimulation from the same things, and in fact some are appalled by some of the things that others find pleasure. It is strange. We are so alike, and yet so different.

Experiences are a part of the process. What we have empirically lived through helps to determine what we enjoy, or at least what allows us to feel comfortable in any particular situation. The old fable of "The Country Mouse and the City Mouse." It's true! What we're used to is a big part of how we will react.


Dealing with situations is a bit easier if you've faced them before. Even if you didn't succeed the first time, you still have an advantage because you have knowledge of what happened, what you did and the result.

So, the idea is to pay attention and note these elements so you may get the result you wanted.


Let's look at the globe again. It's a big world out there. And there's a system in place to permit people to "run" this globe. We don't know the names of the people running it. In fact, the people in charge of it probably have some sort of "shadow" society that is controlling or at least helping to control it all.

On the grand scale, the vast majority of people (G8 leaders included) won't even be in the same room with the people I'm talking about. These are the people that are in charge... the unseen hands that spin the world.

Next... it's back to begin to calculate the "Happiness Quotient."


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 23rd, 2005 06:34 am (UTC)
My chosen career has been sent to the third world to improve their lot in life. For the money I was paid, four or five people will be lifted out of dire poverty. Despite the initial feelings of betrayal, it's impossible to resent that when I really think about it. We are finally sharing the wealth in a small way. It's not the big solution to the inequities of resources by any means, but it is a start.

A person can decide to be happy with what they have if they have the basics of survival. Those who struggle to survive are happy when they have food to eat, water to drink and a roof over their heads.

It's interesting that the more we have the more it takes to keep us happy. I think that's why I enjoy tent camping. It takes me back to survival level, or at least it hints at it. We still have electronics that make our lives easier with flashlights and the lantern, but the rest is basic.

You mentioned the newest generation coming up who are all caught up playing online games and trash talking the others when they lose. There is another side to that. With blogs like this one, we also gain friends from all around the world, which extends our understanding to include other cultures. It would be great if they translated the blogs, too. We could get even better understanding from that. Affordable electronic translators aren't quite up to the job yet.

Of course, that large group of people just trying to survive won't have seen a computer much less have one to use for blogging even if they were literate. Maybe by the small inroads we're making in the process of globalization will pick up speed just as progress has in every other way. We may see the entire world lifted out of poverty and connected via the internet in our lifetimes.

I hope for that.

Aug. 23rd, 2005 07:11 am (UTC)
You are absolutely right. Once you have the basics, then you can start to consider happiness.

Clearly we are meant to be happy, to feel what happiness is, and we all achieve some form of happiness in our lives, though that element is very different based on our personal experiences. In the Third World, happiness is a drink of water that doesn't give you dysentery, and a piece of bread that fills your belly.

Important point. The more we have, the more it takes for us to be happy.

This world has a theme of reversals which I hope to examine in more detail in another thinkpost (and which I have discussed in previous ones). The "reversals" are things that you would suspect wouldn't be true, but are... things like wealthy people getting free gifts while the poor must pay high finance charges. A quick and bad example but you get the idea.

And I agree that some of us are getting closer through blogging. I think the hope is we do start connecting, using conduits that aren't the "official" channels to communicate with people in other places, so we can start getting to the truth of things, not the "party line."

If everyone here looked at the global situation, maybe there would be less complaining and more work to help others. Live 8 was something, but it seems like that happened 10 years ago now, and has it really had an impact? Hard to say for sure. It takes constant pressure to get things to change, especially when the unseen hands are trying to hold the status quo right in place.

Just laying out the full problem will take time. Then, we'll have to attempt a solution, Try it, and try again if that first attempt doesn't work.

We've been here how many years, and still haven't figured it out? Have we at least reached intermission? Some of these leaders need to go to the lobby!

Anyway, thanks for your thoughts, as always.
Aug. 23rd, 2005 02:19 pm (UTC)
Man, I hope we've reached intermission! The true global leaders hold us all in their hands. I just hope they're touched enough by all the attempts to equalize things a bit by the common folk to change the way business is done.

Aug. 23rd, 2005 06:39 am (UTC)
Thank you for writing this. It made me think. I also read the last one you wrote, but didn't comment on it.
Aug. 23rd, 2005 07:13 am (UTC)
Thanks for reading it! The more thinking, the better. It's going to take a lot of collective brain power to make this work. I hope we're not too late.
Aug. 23rd, 2005 04:51 pm (UTC)
Is the current youth generation really getting "the bulk" of their interaction via computer mediated means?

I think about when I was in high school - getting up (face to face time with my family), walking to school (face to face time with traffic), spending the day at school (face to face time with peers) and then, after all that, getting some time on the proto-internet (BBSs, Prodigy, and such). I don't think that's changed particularly; the only real difference is an astronomical increase in the likelihood that there's been face time with the people you communicate with electronically - not because you're more likely to make the effort required but because the people you communicate with electronically are also the people you communicate with physically.

50 years ago telephones were revolutionary; now, businesses use them to stay in touch with contacts and humans use them to keep in touch with people they already know. Similar patterns are emerging with the Internet - the sole exception being sites like this one that are focused on mediating interaction between people seperated by great physical distances, and at the end of the day the percentage of the Internet that these sites represent - whether counted in terms of number of sites, gigabits of throughput, or popularity of destination - is not that large.

Yes, I can play an online game with someone in Turkey, but what are the odds that I'm going to? Most online gaming services parallel high school almost disturbingly - you show up, you meet some friends, and you pretty much hang out with them, perhaps occasionally gaming against a stranger but for the most part sticking to your inner circle.

This is mitigated by the invasion of the console gaming world into the online gaming space, which will dramatically change the landscape there. most online PC games have persistent user communities that can last for years; but the console cycle is so short and so vicious that by the time Midnight Club 3 came out, no one was playing Midnight Club 2 online anymore (a bitter disappointment for those of us who picked it up as a "greatest hits" value title months after the fact). Some people think this will cause gaming to cease to be a community; I simply think it will make "community" the factor that differentiates PC gaming from console gaming and thus allows PC gaming to retain the relevance that it's comparative commercial market share has lost over the past decade.

But back to the main point - I don't think it's fair to say that the bulk of anyone's interaction is coming from electronic means. The trend I'm seeing, throughout human history, is for people to expand their networks to include whatever mediums are readily available that they have the cognitive tools to grasp. If nothing else this exponentially ups the odds for finding soulmates. ;) But the other trend I see is for people to primarily use these mediums to deepen existing contacts; the creation of contacts that exist exclusively in one medium is not the primary relational mode for the majority. Even pen pals are almost invariably someone you knew before the distance grew; pen pal services are offered largely for people who have a hard time interacting locally for whatever reason. All the Internet does to change any of that is alter the channel of communication.

Ask any teenager who's on their buddy list. I'll lay dollars to donuts that more than half are people they see offline on a regular basis.

Ask any adult who they email. I'll bet equal sums that more than half are business contacts and family members who have moved elsewhere.
Aug. 23rd, 2005 11:44 pm (UTC)
Hey Rich.

You have an intriguing habit of taking an ancillary point in the discussion and turning it into the focus of what you want to talk about. You have done this several times and I have to say it is curious.

But back to the main point

We'll come back to the MAIN point in a moment. Let's deal with the point you chose to discuss.

Perhaps my phraseology isn't to your liking here. That seems to be the issue really. I perhaps should have phrased the statement,

"today's teens are getting much more interaction through the internet and other non-direct contact than any generation before them."

Does that help you any?

The point here is that because of the higher levels of this sort of interaction, the socialization process is going to be different for this group than any before them.

I don't know if you can truly call commuting "face time." If I ever said a word to anyone on my commute to school, it was a rare day indeed. And being an only child, I ate alone as often as I did with anyone else, so again, not a lot of interaction with anyone at that time.

The point I was making is that a lot of the time, if people don't connect in a personal way with the people they interact with, there is a feeling that they can say or do anything. It's like the two year old who throws his toy at someone and injures that person. If you can't appreciate what the other person is going through, you aren't going to behave in a way that is courteous.

So, yes, I do appreciate your point, but I don't know that it is crucial to the main part of the discussion, which is everything else, above! :o)
Aug. 24th, 2005 02:04 am (UTC)
Different people will zero in on different things, i suppose. My own thought process tends to be sort of scatter-shot detail orientedness; look at bits of the puzzle so closely that the framework sort of falls into place around what you're studying. you seem to be more a big picture kind of guy. which is probably why i find certain sentences so key and you find them only part of the larger whole.

That being said i would argue that the line in question is more central to your thesis than you seem to think it is, in a couple of ways:

- it dovetails neatly with both the 'basic needs' (ie, if you have access to communications technology to begin with, it's all but a given that your basic needs are successfully met) and the 'more you have the more you need to be happy' point (face to face vs mediated interaction isn't even a consideration among many people whose basic needs *are* met) - both of these particularly in light of the fact that, by your own line of reasoning, the happines quotient isn't even an issue for anyone who isn't at least at that level

- implicit in what immediately follows that point is the analysis that mediated communication by definition leads to the two year old throwing toys example above. i don't think that's the case. i agree that immediacy of presense has an unquestionable impact on behavior, but i think it has more to do with whether the person you're text messaging is a relative stranger or a close confidant - that is to say, behavior has as much or more to do with the nature of the relationship. and maybe i'm misreading your intent here, but it also sounds like you classify offline experience as more rewarding than mediated communication, except insofar as an admission that different people find different things rewarding. the implication is that mediation somehow makes an experience less rewarding. if you're going to puzzle out a formula for happiness quotient, that's something you'll need to puzzle out, if for no other reason than to account for it.

- and all of this dovetails in a roundabout sort of way with your treatise on control from yesterday. the quandry of whether you control the cel phone or vice versa is well taken, but amplify that question up when you're dealing with all the various mediated channels teens have open to them today. maybe the unpleasantness of the wave stems not from the removal from immediacy as from the cognitive dissonance between the illusion of control and the reality of who or what is pulling the strings. if the cel phone serves primarily as a distraction, we're looking at the most distracted generation in history. and yet, by that measure, each generation is almost by definition more distracted than the one before, if for no other reason than more people generating more data and finding more ways and reasons to utilize these distracting mediums. but i don't see that same level of darkness rising in time with the rise of channels - it seems to be more of an undulating wave, whereas techology is a steeply upward curve.

perhaps my response was too micro and not enough macro, but i really do think that mediated communication is at the heart of all of this.
Aug. 24th, 2005 12:27 am (UTC)
There is no mysterious "they" running things. We all know who these people are, and they were not actually voted into office (at least, not honestly) to represent "the people". They are the people in charge of the worlds' oil supplies, and the people making money off the sale of that oil. They are the people who own multinational conglomerates like WalMart, Monsanto, and Coca Cola. They are the people in charge of the American film and television industry, which in effect has become a global industry. They are the pimps who exploit poor girls and women until they are no longer healthy.

THOSE are the people who run the world right now, and they are not interested in social justice. In fact, the more people in need, the better they like it, because it means that those people will be willing to work for a pittance just to have food.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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