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Old 01-22-2010, 12:10 AM
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Default Adagio for Strings 05-25-05

Webstral 05-25-2005, 02:53 AM I am going to off completely on a tangent. For those who aren't interested in a brief rant about social theory, just ignore this installment of "Adagio for Strings". I include it because this rant is a part of my Iraqi experience, whether good, bad, or indifferent.

I have been reading Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein while I have been sitting outside the commander's meetings the past couple of days. The commander asked me if I had ever read Starship Troopers, and he expressed his shock and dismay when I told him I had not. He plucked the book form the bookshelf in his office and presented the book to me with instructions to read it forthwith.

For those who haven't read Starship Troopers, it's not terribly like the movie of the same name. The novel thus far (I'm about halfway through) is more social commentary than war story. Heinlein is definitely advocating a hard-core conservative agenda, with individual responsibility being at the heart of absolutely everything. I think we could use some more personal recognizance in the US, less opting-out on one's responsibilities, and less litigation. But I digress.

Whenever I teach at a new school, one of the constant themes is the feeling that parents are opting out on their responsibility to raise their own children. They want the schools to teach their children everything, including values and discipline. Apologists will say that many poor families don't have the time to spend with their children. I must admit that there is something to this argument. Parents in the bottom third of the wage scale often work more than one full-time job to make ends meet. A part of me is tempted to suggest that parents who aren't prepared to spend adequate time with their children shouldn't have children. However, as attractive as this clean, easy, and glad-I-solved-that-problem answer may be, it's so disconnected from the real world that it's ludicrous even to advance as a solution to a real world problem. ("Just say 'No!'") So we're stuck with a world in which people are going to have children no matter what, and some of them are going to be incapable of paying the rent and other bills in a forty-hour work week. For now, I'm going to ignore the ones who can pay their non-luxury bills in a forty-hour work week and focus on the people who are struggling to make ends meet without the additional burden of credit card bills.

Another area of interest to me is urban planning. How we plan our cities and towns in the US makes a statement about our values. Today, there's a serious shortage of affordable housing. In the San Francisco Bay Area, people are going into phenomenal debt to buy a $500k single-family house. There isn't any other option if we want to buy a home. I can already hear the voices of certain friends and family who probably would claim that as long as the market bears the cost, it can't be too high. My reply is that yes it can be too high--especially when there are no other options. Here's where urban planning comes in. No town wants starter homes. No town wants affordable housing. "Cheap" housing--and the people who live there--belong in another community. Since every community thinks like this, starter homes are scarcer than hen's teeth. Anyone who wants to buy a home is obliged to buy the kind of housing permitted by the zoning rules of the town, which are themselves far too heavily influenced by contractors desirous of selling big-ticket houses.

Okay, so what's this got to do with the bottom third of wage-earners who are renting anyway, I hear the cynics say. Unless I am off my mark, the mortgage payment is a useful benchmark for rent. I can't imagine an owner charging the mortgage payment or less from a property, so rent is going to be even more on a monthly basis. Enter the family in the bottom third of earners. It's not hard to see how the math works to steal time from parents. And I am posing the best-case situation here--that you have a family in which the parents desire to spend time raising their children, don't blow their money on vices like gambling, drugs, or drinking, and don't run up credit card bills on luxuries. I'm just talking about families where the parents earn less than $10/hr and must pay $1,500 per month or more for a two-bedroom apartment just for living in the Bay Area. If our social values say that families are important, and the realities of life say that wage earners in the bottom third are going to have children, then it follows that town councils must insist that housing in the town include a certain amount of affordable housing. Use the free market principle against the contractors. They don't want to make a lesser profit than they desire in my town? Fine. We'll find someone else. But the first step is to acknowledge that "family values" is tied to economics and is not restricted to people with high-paying jobs. Schools (for which no one wants to seem to pay property taxes, anyway) can't do the job of teaching values that parents are supposed to do.



Chuck Mandus 08-17-2005, 05:52 PM I know I'm a bit late, been busy working developing photos and looking for better work. Finally got a better job so I can spend more time checking my old haunts. You have brought out some good points here and that touches a chord with me. I know I see homes going up around me all the time and a lot of them are those $300K and over. A lot of those are close or intermixed with the plan I he lived in all my life, basically 1950's era starter homes, the home I'm in was buit in 1958 and we are still using the old lead phone lines (which I am using as I surf on the internet) to this day. I think the problems in society that we have are being dealt with poorly. I have some thoughts myself.

Since 9-11, getting my hand cut up in 2003 as well as other things, I have become closer to God and becoming more religious although I don't wear it on my shirt sleeve all the time.

Personal responsibility, well, we seem to be lacking in a lot of it. You brought up about a lot of parents seem to be lacking there and because of that, they cannot or will not instill that into their kids. I think some of this come from the idea of "keeping up with the Joneses." Everyone seems to want the biggest house, biggest car, HDTV and so on. I turned 39 in July and I remember when having just a color TV was a big deal and $1000+ VCR's and so on. I remember when a 23 inch color TV was the biggest you can get. I think a lot of times, we as a society get too caught up in the rat race to have the most toys, we neglect to instill good values into our children. So both parents do have to work to get all the toys. A lot of people get themseves into debt over this.

On the other hand, one thing that concerns me on the other side of the spectrum, is that we are losing a lot of our good paying jobs to outsourcing, deals like CAFTA and so on. We need to preserve a good manufacturing base in this country, not only for a sound economy but for our national security and defense. I'm all for making a buck, but when you put greed and so on ahead of our country and the good of society, that is not good.

Well, we do have a vacuum in society of teaching and reinforcing good values and responsibility in general and since nature abhores a vacuum, society will have to step in to do the job where individuals have failed. Society is not always the best teacher but when you have a vacuum, something will rush in to fill it. Generally, I'm very conservative when it comes to moral, religious, military and social issue, but I'm more of a centrist economically. I do support a general safety net welfare system, but it must be tuned up to be a "hand up" not a "hand out" to where personal responsibility and accountibilty must be taught. Generally, the current system does not teach that and you end up with gneerations on the dole who don't know any better. This is a subject all in itself, but I think both as individuals and as a society, we need to work together to bring back the old ideas of personal responsibility again.

I do like your ideas of bringing back starter homes, I might save it to my disk for reading it over and to generate some more thoughts.

BTW, I'll say a prayer for you to remain safe, keep your eyes and ears open and be careful.




DeaconR 08-20-2005, 09:54 AM For a good read on community, individuality, and the fate of America and Canada one might want to read "An Empire Wilderness" by Kaplan, which is a fascinating look at how cities and communities being transformed. Admittedly the book was written in the mid nineties but it is still highly relevant now, indeed it might be almost seen as prophetic.


Chuck Mandus 08-22-2005, 08:02 PM For a good read on community, individuality, and the fate of America and Canada one might want to read "An Empire Wilderness" by Kaplan, which is a fascinating look at how cities and communities being transformed. Admittedly the book was written in the mid nineties but it is still highly relevant now, indeed it might be almost seen as prophetic.

Doing a quickie search on Amazon. From the reviews and summaries, sounds like Kaplan is describing our future that resembles "Dark Conspiracy," minus the monsters of course. Got to keep it game related.

There is an interesting political test out there called "Beyond Red and Blue" to where there are actually more than two basic ideologies that shape the nation.

http://people-press.org/reports/display.php3?ReportID=242 - Beyond Red and Blue

It is an interesting take on things, although I consider myself very conservative (although economically, I'm a moderate) and thus having very little in common with the "Haight-Ashbury" liberalism that has been in our politics for the last 30+ years, I really don't have a lot in common with Wall Street either. It is an interesting take on things.

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