Who controls what you think you ‘want’

Want vs. Need is a discussion that could go on forever. I’m not here to tell anyone that they have to only survive with their basic needs being met and anything above that is wrong. What I am going to do is ask you why you desire the things you desire.

Who programs us to want the things that we line up for on Black Friday? What is the driving force behind the items that we make best sellers on amazon.com?

You don’t think you’re a programmed? Really? Take a look in your cupboards and tell me if you know the commercials associated with the products you see.

Look at your wardrobe and tell me what celebrity or tv personality is closest to “your style”….because it is your style right? You haven’t ever seen anything that would make you think it was acceptable to wear what you wear?

What about your car, or the decorations in your house? Where did the inspiration come from for the things that you own?

Companies spend millions on advertising each year to get you to own the idea of choice. You feel that you are the one in control because you went to Arby’s instead of McDonald’s.

We are constantly told what will make us happy. We are shown pictures of people who are generally better looking than us, by the standards of society, enjoying things that now we want. We didn’t know that those products would bring us such joy. Now that we do, we must have them so we can fill our lives with that joy.

The problem with this is not the products. It is with the illusion that those things will bring you joy.

Joy is not gained by things, it is experienced by enjoying time with family and friends.

This is obvious by the amount of suicides and overdoses in Hollywood. Powerful, famous, beautiful people decide that life is not worth living. We can’t understand it. People say, “If I had what they had, I would be so happy!” That is the illusion.

Basic needs have to be met in order to enjoy life…and keep on living. Beyond that it comes down to attitude and companions.

So what do we do about this illusion problem? How do we combat the barrage of images tell us what we must have to be happy? Those are the questions I want you to answer. We can’t move forward as a society unless we acknowledge that something is wrong. Once we acknowledge the problem, we have to work together to come up with the solution.

If you don’t think that you have a problem, then carry on. If what I said makes sense and you want to adjust the world around you, sit down and talk with your friends. Solutions come from community.

What is it all about?

My question to you today is simple:

What is it all about?

We go to work, usually doing something we don’t really enjoy, so we can have money to buy stuff that is supposed to make us enjoy our time away from work.

I understand that we have to eat, we need somewhere to live, and we need clothes of some kind. I get that…but why are we not helping each other fulfill our basic needs so we can all go out and do the things we love.

Lately I have met a lot of people who didn’t have anyone encourage them to follow after what they loved doing. Instead they were told to play it safe and fit into the mold.

The mold for a life today seems to be broken. There are over five times as many vacant homes as we have homeless people (who number the same amount of people as live in Los Angeles btw). That seems wrong.

The only city I have heard about that is addressing this issue is Salt Lake City. They looked at the bottom line and saw it cost more to have people on the street than it would to house them and assign a case worker. They are working to get the homeless people back on their feet.

Think about what would happen if we did something like that all over the country. Not to save money, but because people matter more than the bottom line.

How would it change the world if we gave away the 40% of food that goes to waste every day in the US?

What would your community look like if we reached out to the parents of young children and helped them on a daily basis with their kids instead of having to work an extra job to send them to daycare to be raised by teachers?

How would the landscape of job market change if children were encouraged to study what they loved and they were mentored by people who are already doing those jobs?

I believe that we all care about others. I believe that we all want a better future. I think we are getting to a point in time where a change is coming. I want to help. Let’s do it together.

It’s all about money…but we already knew that

I ran across an article that just bothered me today. Here it is:

Potential candidates hoping to hit is big in Las Vegas

It is just a regular political piece about potential presidential candidates hoping to find big donors that will contribute to their upcoming bid to be the next leader of the world’s largest economy.

It bothered me, not because I don’t think this kind of things happens, but because it doesn’t seem to bother anyone else. It doesn’t seem to be a big deal that we have millionaires kissing up to millionaires so that they will donate and help them get elected. It doesn’t bother people that the only way to win an election for the highest office in this country is to spend more money than the vast majority of the world will ever see in their lifetime. It is not a big deal that instead of speaking to the masses, they speak to the few who will get them airtime on TV, radio, and build a stronger web presence so that we will vote for them…or at least so that we will vote against the person that they are running against.

It is not about right or wrong, it is not even really about what their stance is on the issues for the most part. It is about money and who can get it. Money will get you more ads, more people to pay to make phone calls to likely voters, more mailers sent out…etc.

The candidates are trying to prove that they are not as bad as the guy across the aisle from them, so you should vote for them. They are trying to make you think that they will do exactly what you think is right when they get into office. You need to feel connected to the candidate, so they will go on talk shows and have heart felt commercials that show them as regular people.

All of this costs money, lots of money, more money than you would think it would take considering all the advances in technology that have connected people all over the world.

It bothers me that without money, you can’t get elected. Those who don’t have the backing might be the right person for the job, but you will never hear their voice. They can’t buy their way onto the stage for the debate.

It bothers me, it might not bother you. I don’t know what I am going to do about it, I’m not sure that there is anything I can do about it. I just felt like I wanted to share.

Congress gets reelected 90% of the time with an approval rating of 17%…what???

Shortly after the government shutdown last year it seemed like everyone was talking about the abysmal approval rating of Congress. Here are a couple of examples:

The 9%: Congress’s Approval Rating Hits the Single Digits

Congress Job Approval Drops to All-Time Low for 2013

It didn’t seem to matter what political party you were a part of, no one was happy with Congress. The approval rating by party for 2013 was something like this:

Democrats: 16%   Republicans: 13%  Independents: 14%

Impressive, since we had just elected all of these members of Congress in 2012. Not only did we elect ALL of these members of Congress who now had such a low approval rating, but we reelected incumbents at a rate of 90%. This was astonishing to me in 2012 because the approval rating at that time was only 17%

So what you’re telling me is that as a country, only 17% of America was happy with the job Congress was doing and still 90% of them got reelected.  How does that work exactly? Why do we keep reelecting the same people over and over again, even though each time they get reelected we get less satisfied with the job they are doing?

Over the past 40 years, the highest approval rating Congress has received was a resounding 56% in 2001. Most years the approval rating doesn’t get over 40%. In contrast to that, since 1964, the reelection rate for Congress has NEVER dropped below 85% (it was 85% in 1970 and 2010).

This leads me to believe one of two things. Either we are like goldfish when it comes time to elect members of Congress and we have absolutely no long term memory, or we are happy with our representative…even though we aren’t happy with anyone else.

How can we be like goldfish? How can we not remember all the things that Congress did, or didn’t do in the time they had in office? Oh that’s right, because all we see are the commercials and campaign promises. We see stats on how our rep voted on certain issues that matter to us, and we make our choices based on a handful of votes made on an even smaller amount of hot topics. We never look for an alternative outside our party or outside of the mainstream media coverage. We don’t vote for idealists or people who are not part of the system because that would be throwing away our vote on someone who can’t possibly win.

Why can’t they win if they aren’t part of the system? They don’t have the money. You don’t win a Senate seat or even a House seat by grass-roots campaigning. You win with money. In 2012 the average Senate winner spent $10.2 million and the average for a seat in the House cost a measly $1.5 million. If you tell me that money doesn’t pave the way to Congress then you aren’t looking at the facts. If you think that you are truly voting your ‘conscience’ then you simply aren’t paying attention anymore. You’re voting for who you’re supposed to vote for based on the right commercials, the right phrases stated during the televised debates, and the right spin put on the candidate during the news.

*stats for cost to win election based on several sources, here are 3 of them: 1, 2, and 3

If you say that this is not what is going on. You voted for your incumbent because you really like what they are doing and what they stand for, even though all the other members of Congress can’t do their jobs. So why did your rep still have to spend millions to get elected? If they are doing such a bang-up job, then why not let their record speak for itself? No one lets their job speak for them, they spend money to shout it from the roof tops and try to make their opponents look like crooks trying to ruin America.

There is a third option that is what most people will actually tell you is the problem. If they are a Democrat, the problem is the Republicans. If they are Republicans, the problem is the Democrats. If they are Independents, the problem is everyone else. That is actually the most consistent thing I have heard as I have traveled around the country. I have lived in WA, CA, OR, OK, AR, and NY. Some of the most liberal and some of the most conservative states in the country. No one thinks that the party they are a part of is really the problem. It is always the other guys that cause all the problems in Congress.

The Democrats feel that the Republicans are a bunch of rich white guys who are out of touch with America. The Republicans think that the Democrats are socialists trying to turn our country into a 1980’s USSR. If you’re an Independent then both of the other parties are corporate puppets. We are so polarized and convinced that our way is the only way that we will ever have a country worth living in is by electing people who share our party affiliation.

Real change won’t come from our elected officials. It will come from the people of this country reaching out and actually helping those that are around us. There are a lot of options out there, we just have to start looking for them. Mainstream politics/media will not point them out.

Post Christmas Reflections

Christmas-Shopping-Fever-2

Christmas just happened. I’m not going to go into what I think about the money we all spend on gifts each year. That is for another post.

*If you just want to read the happy stuff you can skip to the bottom of this blog post and see people who are helping others*

First off I’m going to say that when asked, almost everyone will give the right answer when asked what really matters. It will be some variation of saying people matter the most, or family, or the relationships we have with others. Almost everyone will agree that the correct answer is that what matters in life is other human beings.

If we all agree that we would answer the question correctly then what is the problem? How about we look at our actions as a society for a second. If people mattered more than anything else, why do we continue to buy products that exploit people for profits? You don’t think that you would do that, well here is a tiny list of companies that have abused workers in other countries for profits (you can click on the name to see just one article about the allegations of worker abuse):

sweatshop

If people mattered the most, what are we going to do about the people who are being abused so that we can continue to enjoy lower prices?

What about the movies we watch? I read An Open Letter to the Makers of The Wolf of Wall Street, and to the Wolf Himself today. It will make you think twice before spending money to support that particular movie. What about all the other movies that make heroes out of people that murder, rob, and steal from everyone they meet? It is just a movie, right? It doesn’t change how we treat people or how we think about people. I would say that if we took a look at the news we would not be so quick to say that what we view as entertainment doesn’t change us as a society.

If people are what really matter, why are we spending our lives consumed with building our 401(k) and making sure we have the best flat screen HD TV to stream Netflix on in our living room?

We say people matter most, but what about the people who are hurting in your neighborhood? What about the family that doesn’t have the money to get groceries and still pay all the bills? What about the homeless children that are sitting in the desks next to your children? There are over 1 million homeless children in America right now.

People matter. Real people, not the idea that we want to help people somewhere. People with names that live in your state, in your town, in your neighborhood.

Some people I know are doing everything they can to make a difference. My friend Aaron Reddin for one. He started The One, Inc. and all the outreaches that they have going on.

Maybe you aren’t ready to leave your job and start a non-profit, what about my friend Mike Ellis? For Christmas he decided to get on social media and tell the story of a waitress and her 3 grandchildren who needed a little help. People stepped up in a big way.

How about one more? I know a woman who has decided that widows need someone to reach out to them. She started a non-profit called Abounding Great Deeds which is women reaching out to widows.

She isn’t just talking about doing something, she reaches out to people on her own as well. She opened up her house this Thanksgiving to a woman who had not had a Thanksgiving meal since her husband passed away several years ago.

She is constantly reaching out to those around her and is always trying to make sure it is not about her, but it is really about the people who just need someone to say they care. You won’t see her on the news, but that is her choice so I will respect that.

There are people who are doing what they can do to help others. So I’m not saying that we are all heartless and obsessed with our own happiness. I’m just asking what can you do? What can I do? What are the things that we can all do to change the lives of the people that live around us? If we start there, how far could it go?

A little clarification: The REAL reason I posted a link about ‘Wealth Inequality’

Not too long ago I posted a certain link on my facebook page which caused a bit of a stir. Here is the link:

9 Out Of 10 Americans Are Completely Wrong About This Mind-Blowing Fact

Screen-Shot-2013-10-08-at-4.32.40-PM

I didn’t defend the link or really go into why I was even posting it. I simply put it up to see what my friends and family would have to say about it.

What I found out was that people felt VERY strongly about not only what the video said (if you click the link above it takes you to a short video), but also about who made the video. Some people didn’t even bother to talk about the video at all, they were just talking about other comments that were made.

I was warned several times about the dangers of class envy and envying the wealth and prosperity that the “1%” posses.

My wife wanted me to respond to all the comments as they were coming in, but I decided to let everyone say their peace and choose another day to respond. That day is today.

I normally don’t give a lot of my own opinion anymore, I try to give facts and figures that will make people think about what they believe. I don’t feel it is my job to change your mind, it is up to you to take a look at what is going on around you and choose for yourself.

Unfortunately I feel I was misunderstood when I posted this video. If you actually know me then you know that having lots of money is not something I spend time worrying about. I care about people. I do my best to care about all people, no matter who they are or what they do.

I don’t believe someone has to earn the right for me to care about them. You don’t have to like me, be nice to me, or even want me to care about you. I believe that everyone needs to be loved. I am also a follower of Christ, which dictates that I must love my neighbor as myself.

I’m not perfect, so I am very aware that I fall short in loving everyone all the time. There is no reason to go into the times when I have failed in my endeavors to love people. I simply start fresh each day and try to do better than I did yesterday.

In loving everyone to the best of my ability, it pains me to see people hurting. I also want to try to bring to light things that are either hurting others or could potentially help others.

The reason I point out the wealth or income gap in America is because since the start of the current depression the amount of homeless children grades K-12 has gone up nearly 75%.

Here is a link to an article: One Million K-12 Students that are Homeless

You might think that things are getting better, the housing market is rebounding and people are going back to work. For some of us, this is true. The problem is that the poorest people in America are the ones who are being hit the hardest. They are the ones that are not seeing any of the improvements in the economy.

What I was pointing out with the wealth inequality was not that I want more of the money from the rich, I was trying to show that the rich are getting richer while the poor are getting poorer. That is the real problem.

Helping those who need help is what I care about. You might not think they deserve it, I don’t think I do either. If we only help those who we think deserve it then we’re judging them. I do my best not to judge.

What are you…and why?

Well I just deleted a post I have been working on for a couple of days. I decided that it sounded too much like I thought I was better than other people, and that is just not the case.

I have a couple of questions for you…those few who will read this post. What are you in terms of your belief system? When you meet someone do you say,

A-ChristianIf you would say that you’re a Christian, what does that mean to you? How does that change how you live?

If you aren’t a Christian, what do you think of those who say that they are Christians? What is your general opinion of people who profess to live in line with the teachings of Jesus Christ?

I don’t know if anyone will respond to this, but I’m hoping to see what some different people have to say about this subject. I think there are a lot of misconceptions out there about being a Christian. I am just curious to see what my friends and those who stumble upon this post will say.

Thanks for your feedback.