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Functional explanation for the inability of individuals to find happiness - entitlement


By Nanook - Posted on 14 November 2010

[Nanook is talking with Father Vincent or Ben.]

Seven Deadly Sins – importance – to avoid violence

“The concept of greed, in the Seven Deadly Sins, is actually so important, it is broken down and covered separately by 5 of the deadly sins. Pride, is one, which we just talked about; Greed is the second, which we are talking about now. LUST, GLUTTONY and ENVY are the others.

So, let’s talk a little more about what greed means besides pride, lust, gluttony, and envy and why it is such a big deal.

Greed is the SIN OF EXCESS. Greed is a problem because, even though it isn’t an action, it drives people to take action. This causes a problem when people congregate into SOCIETIES. It becomes a problem because, in a material universe, ALL RESOURCES ARE LIMITED. So if one person tries to amass any kind of resource, then others may be deprived of those resources. And when deprivation becomes an issue, people take action to eliminate their deprivation. Over the entire history of mankind, this has led to violence. Violence in society is a PRIMARY threat to society. So, the Seven Deadly Sins were prescribed TO GUIDE PEOPLE AWAY FROM VIOLENCE. The last 7 Commandments are aimed at the same goal. Did you ever understand that?”

"Wow! No. Whenever I think about the Commandments, it was always just about me doing what God said was the right thing. I never looked at it as a way to achieve harmony in the world."

“And, again, you aren’t the only one. St.Thomas Aquinas wrote that Greed was a sin against God, just as all mortal sins are, because man condemns things eternal for the sake of earthly things. That is, St. Thomas viewed the sin of greed from it’s effect on the individual in his quest to get into heaven. Note, he felt it was a serious enough issue to call it a MORTAL sin.”

"Wow! This is mind blowing. You’re painting a very different picture of the world from the one I’ve been taught. In essence, you are saying that the PRIMARY problem in life is that resources are limited. And when people are faced with limits, to things they need for survival, or what they perceive as something they need, or something they have a right to, they have historically turned to violence to get those things. Then add in greed. In the middle of a perceived resource shortage, due to human nature, humans will build up piles of that resource for themselves. Not a good situation."

“What do you mean by not a good situation? I mean, how bad can this possibly be? Don’t you think people can just work with each other to make everyone happy?”

"Come on, Father. Give me a break. This is mind boggling. What you are describing here is not only a behavior in humans that might get people mad at each other. This is probably even the basic reason for war among nations. Wow!"

“Precisely! That’s what this is all about. And that’s why understanding the Seven Deadly Sins is so important to society.

Lord of the Flies

Now, let me ask you a question. Have you read the book called Lord of the Flies by William Golding?”

"Sure."

"What did you learn?”

"It was a very disturbing book. When the boys were stranded on the island, I figured they would pull together in a common effort to get rescued. But as the book unfolded, the kids broke into warring groups. I thought they would listen to the smart kids who had good ideas about how to survive and signal for help. But the tough and ruthless kids played on the fears of the other kids and took control. They even killed the smart kids when they didn’t go along."

"So? What did you learn from that?”

"I guess I didn’t want to admit what the book was trying to say. I wanted to believe that people will respect wisdom and work to produce harmony in the world. The book says that this is wishful thinking. Given human nature, wisdom will not be respected and society will revert to war led by the most ruthless among us."

"OK. As you look around the world, what do you think reality is telling you?”

"That’s the disturbing part. The history of man, even with all the great, great thinkers like Aristotle and Plato, is a history of war. Even today, 1965, the planet is best described as being made up of nations hostile to each other. And I think we kid ourselves if we try to group the nations into just a few friendly camps. As soon as some big companies in the U.S. are challenged by cheap lumber from Canada, or cheap electronics from Japan, the exchange with them gets hostile right away. The book was trying to tell us this. But, it seems, humans can’t grasp what it has to say."

"There’s a pretty simple but tragic explanation for this. Talk to George about it.”

"Again! Talk to George."

"Yes. Talk to George. But let me give you just a glimpse. Let me read a statement from Nietzsche in his book Beyond Good and Evil. Page 15. “

“The physiologists should take heed before they assume self-preservation as the cardinal drive of an organic being. Above all, a living thing wants to discharge its energy: life as such is: will to power."

“What he’s saying here is that self-preservation is only one concern of life forms. And, while it may take precedence when life is directly threatened, at other times, other concerns become more important. Have you ever heard of Maslow’s hierarchy?”

"Actually yes. And Ben and I talked about it."

“That’s the observation Nietzsche was making. But, to come back to Lord of the Flies, just think about the problem in the book by seeing that it is primarily driven by GREED. In this case, it is greed for power. And, yes, this greed still plays a dominant role in all of human society. Our inability to control this could lead to the downfall of society.

Coveting

So, now, let’s talk about coveting. To begin with, the basic meaning of covet is not complicated. It’s simply greed for something someone else has. The reason the nuns didn’t want to talk to you about the ninth commandment is that you’d start asking a lot of questions about why a man would want to have his neighbor’s wife. This would open up Pandora’s box about sex, which is something they don’t want to deal with. But that was the big reason it was hushed up. All in all, however, that’s a very small part of the problem with these two commandments.

Sloth, Entitlement and Needs

In addition, there is a category of greed we call ENTITLEMENT. To escape having to put out effort, humans quickly grab on to promises from their leaders, that the government will take care of them. Now add in greed. People are not willing to stop at just basic needs. They quickly convince themselves that everything they WANT is something they NEED. And, they want it ALL. Then, by going the route of Single Sentence Logic, they convince themselves that the government, who promised to meet their needs, is supposed to give them everything they want. In their view, then, people believe they are ENTITLED to everything they want. Socialism plays into these deadly sins by promising to meet peoples needs, whatever they are. This failure has been known for a long time. Let me read a short piece from a book called The Poor Laws written by Joseph Townsend in 1786:

“To a man of common sensibility nothing can be more distressing than to hear the complaints of wretchedness, which he hath no power to redress, and to be daily conversant with misery, which he can neither fly from nor relieve. …

The Poor Laws, so beautiful in theory, promote the evils they mean to remedy and aggravate the distress they were intended to relieve . . .

MOTIVATION – what encouragement have the poor to be industrious and frugal, when they know for certain, that should they increase their share it will be devoured by the drones? Or what cause have they to fear, when they are assured, that if by their indolence and extravagance, by their drunkenness and vices, they should be reduced to want, they shall be abundantly supplied, not only with food and raimament, but with their accustomed luxuries at the expense of others. The poor know little of the motives which stimulate the higher ranks to action – pride, honor and ambition. In general it is only hunger which can spur and goad them on to labor; yet our laws have said, they shall never hunger.

The laws, it must be confessed, have likewise said that they shall be compelled to work. But then, legal constraint is attended with too much trouble, violence and noise; creates ill will, and never can be productive of good and acceptable service: whereas hunger is not only a peaceable, silent, unremitting pressure, but calls forth the most powerful exertions.

He who statedly employs the poor in useful labour, is their only friend; he, who only feeds them, their greatest enemy. Their hopes and fears should center in themselves.”

“So, there are some huge “human” forces working against Socialism in this regard, both in the motives of the people who live it and the denial of those who claim to promote it.”

Entitlement

"This is a behavior called ENTITLEMENT.”

"Ah ha! Father Vincent talked about that in relation to Greed."

"Well, there can be an element of greed involved that exaggerates the behavioral issues. But I’m going to cast the basis here back to fear. In our culture, the political establishment has learned that people respond much more strongly to promises of betterment and success, than honest descriptions of poor conditions. So, they LIE. In an election, you are always going to hear how the government is going to take care of everyone. This is the socialist pitch again. This is especially damaging to people who are less sophisticated thinkers. They don’t know how to analyze all the complexity, so they TRUST the leaders. They trust too much. When that trust is betrayed, the people are likely to find themselves in serious financial situations. That means starvation, being out in the cold, being sick without care.”

"In SHORT - deprived of basic needs. In SHORT - I’m going to die."

"Exactly! And thereby mentally thrown into survival thinking. Continuing with Maslow. Page 64:”

“If it is easy to accept basic need frustration as one determinant of hostility, it is quite easy to accept … basic need gratification, as an a-priori determinant of … friendliness."

"So, what you get is hostility, plus a DEMAND for things promised.”

"OK. I’ll buy it."

Rich People

“Now let’s talk about rich people and their kids. It’s ironic to be exploring laziness for both the very poor and the very rich, don’t you think?”

"Hmmm . . . I guess."

“But in the case of rich people, there are two very different dynamics at work which largely depend on whether the wealth they have was earned or not.

Rich who earned their money

For those who earned their money, I think what you are interpreting to be laziness is not that at all. Because of their wealth, they can do pretty much what they want and in their own way. That seldom conforms to social customs.”

"Hold on a second. Why would that be so?"

"For a couple of reasons. One is that the average person has to do a lot of things in life that they don’t want to do. This is both all the menial labor to keep their houses and daily lives going, as well as similar jobs to keep society going. The wealthy don’t have to do any of that. In fact, they are stigmatized because they pay the poor to do that kind of work instead. Second, given their ability to escape a regular work schedule, they have more time to explore their interests. They can then focus larger blocks of time to develop those interests. Following those interests makes them different than the average person.”

"Interesting!"

“So, the rich often keep their activities out of sight and keep a low profile in public. When the world observes that public low profile, they interpret it as laziness.”

"I can also see that our culture is probably jealous of rich peoples ability to follow their interests. So they are applying the word laziness to the things rich people do out of spite."

“Exactly. And there’s a simple explanation for that. Keeping up the daily grind is a big effort for most people. When they get a chance to relax, that’s when they play with their special interests. If they rebel from their chores and slack off, the thing that they turn to is these other interest – which might be swimming in the old water hole or fishing or hanging out with friends. But the authoritarian religious model doesn’t condone this. So it is made a BAD thing. That’s where the ‘LAZY’ word comes in – idleness being the work of the devil and all that.”

"But it is! It’s right in the 10 Commandments!"

"It is? Which one?”

"Hmmm . . . I am the …. Thou shalt not … Remember thou … … … I guess it isn’t one. I was so sure . . ."

"One of the Seven Deadly Sins, yes. But, ironically, the Seven Deadly Sins and the 10 Commandments don’t have much in common. So, in short, what we see in rich people who have earned their money the hard way is not laziness, but non-conformance and self protection. They are just busy doing things that don’t fit in with social norms.”

"OK. Hang on here. This is an important point. You’re saying, what society defines as laziness, can be just not going along with the flow?"

“Exactly. The people who control society want the other people following the RULES. They leaders want control. They’ve brainwashed the average person into accepting that. When people don’t follow the rules, they get branded with bad words. Lazy is one of them.”

"So, if some rich guy decides he’s taking his boat and going fishing, people are going to call him lazy."

“Exactly. Because he’s not doing things like building a business, that would put money into the hands of the rich bankers and wealthy church leaders.”

"But if I go fishing, no one could care less."

“Well, not exactly. You are a pawn in the same game, only at a different level. Sure, you can go fishing on Saturday, for example, but not in place of going to school. If you did that, you’d be labeled as lazy.”

"Ah! Now I see it. What we are told is that we are going to school for, quote, "our own good". But we don’t get to judge what our own good is. We are led by the system to do things that are productive to the system."

“Exactly. And if you don’t fall in line, the system will severely penalize you.

Inherited wealth

Now, think about those people who got their money through inheritance or luck. I also want to divide them into two groups. One group is those who get their money later in life. They’ve already matured before they get the money. The second is the kids who are born into it.

Late age Inherited wealth

In the first case, there is an observation that seems very ironic. Substantial studies have shown that when people inherit wealth later in life, they don’t change all that much. Above a certain level of income, which isn’t much greater than what they were usually earning, greater amounts of wealth don’t increase happiness or change people much.”

"I find that hard to believe. Everyone I know talks about all these dreams they would follow if they had the money."

“That’s the common belief. But it doesn’t happen in reality. Sure, there’s a phase of rash expenditures. This is what the public sees. The newly wealthy usually use their money to cast off responsibilities that they didn’t want to face up to before, but HAD TO, to stay alive. They excessively do the things that before were quote ‘luxuries’. This quickly comes to an end. First off, they soon find they are being thrown into a world they don’t understand. This brings a bunch of scary new stresses into their lives. Secondly, after two straight months on the gold course, it doesn’t seem like a BREAK in their other wise hum drum work life. It starts to seem like a new DEMAND. They have to get up by a certain time, drive the same road, sign in at the same desk, walk the same ground.

So, they fall back on old ways to recover. In the end, if they are LUCKY, they are essentially the same people they were before they got the money with a slight reduction in stress.”

"OK. I can see that. And the ‘unlucky’ ones end up in tragedy."

“Exactly. And where have we pin-pointed LAZINESS in this description?”

"Right! If anywhere, it’s society’s being jealous of the ability of money to throw off the daily routine. Which is, again, the brainwashing we got from the authoritarian model."

Young age inherited wealth

"Exactly. So, the final variation, wealth inherited at a young age. That is, kids who are born into wealthy families. This is actually not so simple either. It depends whether they are born into a family that is newly wealth, and therefore most likely chaotic, or a family with multi-generational wealth, which has had multiple generations to learn to use that wealth. Does that make sense?”

"Hmmm . . . I never thought of this, but I do understand. Like in your last example. A family that just got wealthy has a lot of adjustment to do. If they have kids at the same time, the kids are just dragged through the adjustments."

"Exactly. And in that case, the kids are very likely to be messed up. We are going to see a lot of this with the BABY BOOMERS. That’s your generation, Nanook.”

"Ugh . . . keep talking."

"The kids of the Baby Boomer generation are going to be the most screwed up kids in modern times. They will be born into a time of prosperity. There will be a lot of immigration to provide low cost labor to do menial things. So the kids won’t be expected to help around the house, which means they won’t have the opportunity to learn responsibility or the everyday homemaking skills. Birth control will be available, so the world will see a new sexual revolution. And at least when they are going through puberty, they will still be able to ride on their parent’s coat tails. This will give them a lot of free time to follow their personal interests. But they won’t have much guidance doing it because their parents will be working all the time and the structure of the world will be changing so radically.”

"This sounds like a prime opportunity for them to be misfits in the old world culture?"

"Exactly! And that means they will be branded as LAZY.”

"OK. NOW I GET IT! There is a quote, ‘scientific’ definition for lazy and a cultural definition for lazy, which of course isn’t in any dictionary and no one is willing to admit to anyway."

"Exactly! Our culture is in denial.

Let me give you another way to look at this that might make it simple to keep the two definitions separate. Animals can survive over a very wide range of levels of ambition. Some, like alligators, can just lie around and only hunt when they are hungry. Some like otters and weasels are on the go all the time. Some, like humans, can work all the time and build cities and empires. But humans can also just lie around and only scrounge when they are hungry. Who decides where the line is to call a behavior LAZY?”

"Right. This is clearly a social criterion. And in the current way of things, this is being decided by people who want to maintain their position of power in the world ."

“Exactly. But there’s now a new factor involved when we bring in the concept of A-square. People who don’t have level A3 brain functions can’t understand the purpose behind organization. Organizational activities don’t motivate them. Putting in a lot of effort toward a larger good doesn’t make sense to them.”

"So, you’re saying, those people have a biologically based reason to be lazy?"

“No. What I’m trying to tell you is that the term LAZY is a trigger word in the scourge of Single Sentence Logic! People at different levels of A-square have to be judged by different standards. A2 people have a biologically based set of reasoning to do things that ambitious A3 level people will judge as being lazy. They will also be judged as being lazy by other A2 types who are narrowly ambitious due to their Seven Deadly Sins drives. But to be an honest assessment, LAZY has to take into account inherent A-square levels and a much broader tolerance for personal interests outside cultural stereotypes.”

"Ah . . . ha! Now this is making sense."

Entitlement - NEED

While this discussion of the failings of human nature may seem pretty bad already, so far, I’ve kept the gloves on. Now let’s go for the jugular. Hit me with the key words, oh great Nanook!”

"Fear and the Seven Deadly Sins!"

"Strong work man! You get two boots-out-of-mouth-free cards. So, it’s time to look directly at the key driver: GREED. Here is a neat way to start this from Robert Ringer.”

“Democracy without limits fails due to greed and envy, of both people and leaders, implemented through the word ‘NEED’. Need has been equated to “rights”.

"Ooo Kaa! I can see it coming. The word NEED has become a symbol!"

American dream

"Bingo! Which thus makes it a tool of manipulation by all, far and wide. I NEED food; I NEED clothes; I NEED a new car; I NEED a bigger house. I NEED to have what everyone else has, even if they ARE movie stars! ‘I’m ENTITLED to it!’ “

"Right! The ‘entitlement’ word!"

“Bingo! And at this point in our national social development, this word, ‘NEED’, has already become a nightmare. Why? Because the country is loosing its common moral foundation. It’s loosing its common definition of human life and human purpose. It’s loosing the common foundation for its concept of the AMERICAN DREAM. Why is this important? Because, if we don’t have a common model to assess what is a satisfactory life for each person, then how can we possibly have a common definition for the word ‘need’? And, most important, how can the individual establish their own personal definition of need?”

"Sure. I see the problem. Without an OBJECTIVE STANDARD, the human will be driven to set their own standard very high by fear and the Seven Deadly Sins."

"Bingo! And without rational citizens as the working model for the nature of man, there is no basis for any ideal model of democracy.”

"Scary!"

“Hang on. We’re not quite done. Now I want to introduce you to the twin sister of entitlement: JUSTICE. When ‘justice’ is faced with the same entitlement questions, her response is: I HAVE A RIGHT to what everyone else has.”

"Sure. Makes sense. And the idea of a ‘need’, or an entitlement being a RIGHT puts it squarely in the hands of the government."

"Bingo! As just an unfulfilled need, it might have been the province of the churches or philanthropies. But as a ‘right’, it’s now in the OPEN ARMS of the government. And why would I use the term OPEN ARMS here?”

"Hmmm… Why? Let’s see: human emotions, Seven Deadly Sins, lots of money involved, symbols everywhere. It’s a perfect political football."

"Yes sir. And you have NO IDEA how much this one issue pervades politics. It’s the Holy Grail for them. Think about it: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Welfare, Fannie Mae, etc. etc. Think of the money that moves through these channels - all justified based on NEED.”

"So, we’re a ship adrift without a rudder."

"Good metaphor. But way understated. We’re a planet drifting in space that is now dominated by a life form with the technical ability to blow itself to smithereens. Its also on course to drive itself back into a Dark Ages. And the scary part is it doesn’t show ANY sign of recognizing its vulnerability or understanding how to AVOID the catastrophe. The one condition needed to solve all the equations leading to a beautiful future is WISDOM based on REALITY. And THAT we don’t have.”

"So, are you saying we’re facing a full parallel to the collapse of the Roman Empire? Then who are the Huns? Who are the barbarians that will over throw us? The Chinese?"

“Nanook. Do you remember the line from the Pogo Comics? ‘We have met the enemy and he is US.’ The enemy is IGNORANCE. The enemy is superstition. The enemy is fear and the Seven Deadly Sins. The enemy is INTERNAL, just as it was in Rome. The Huns could never have come in if the doors weren’t already open. The Roman legions were invincible - before they became just figureheads.

. . . . .

. . . . .

So, how do we find our way out?

growth in complexity of human knowledge

"How do we overcome ignorance? Simple! Is the Pope Catholic? However, I think I’ll drink some coffee before I try to answer this. It goes down easier without boots and gravel in the way."

"Smart move. And I’ll save you the embarrassment. Yes, EDUCATION would be one of the key answers, IF, education wasn’t in the toilet. But it is. So, it looks like we are finally in a real jam.”

"One of the ironies for me in this whole discussion is the critical role that human nature plays in every political issue. I mean, socialism fails because of Greed and human laziness. But the same element, Greed, when aligned with zealousness, the opposite of laziness, is the destroyer of capitalism and democracy."

“Bingo! Which is why Father V spent so much time on that when you were talking about the Seven Deadly Sins.”

Role as want creator for industry through advertising

[Nanook is talking with Ben.]

Let’s follow the money for awhile and see where it takes us. There is a business principle found in the media that is very different from what is found in most other businesses. That is, giving things away for free. Or at least what appears to be free. Do you know what I’m talking about?”

"Sure. Free samples is one. The other is free information."

“Right. So, many magazines or inserts in newspapers are provided for free. How can that be done? It must cost someone something for those.”

"Sure. It’s considered a cost of sales and paid for by advertising."

"Do you have any idea how high this advertising cost can go?”

"No clue."

"Well, I do know one extreme example. Bubble gum. The gum and wrapper cost almost nothing. So, for a 5 cent pack of gum, 4 cents of that can be for advertising: eighty percent!”

"I’m sure bottled soda is the same way. But why is this important?"

"Simple. What if the advertising industry does the same thing for expensive things? Let’s say, diamond rings. And they convince every woman in the country that DIAMONDS ARE A GIRL’S BEST FRIEND. And every woman has to have a diamond as an engagement ring. And every ring costs hundreds of dollars?”

"I guess, with all the money involved, and all the people in the world starving, that starts to be a problem."

"And what if the advertising industry starts convincing everyone that investing in the stock market always makes more money than, say, a bank account or an investment account? And company pension funds start investing in the stock market?”

"OK. I remember your discussion about this. Since, the secondary stock market is pure gambling with no inherent value, it always has to produce a loss for someone, and can crash at any time. So, this would put people’s retirement funds at risk of being wiped out."

"And what if those investment stock funds, which are referred to as MUTUAL FUNDS, can use the income from their investments to pay for advertising?”

"OK. I see where you’re going. I also understood why you picked the diamond ring example. Before the DeBeers company created a monopoly on diamonds, they were pretty cheap. Once they created a monopoly, they restricted the supply and pumped up the advertising. This drove the prices way up. So, you’re saying the mutual fund companies can do the same thing. And because of human nature, people can’t resist it. And if the pension funds in the country start buying into this, we are setting the whole country up for a huge financial disaster."

"Bingo! Now this problem is not new. Economists have known about it for a hundred years. Let me read a summary from Edmund Phelps. Page 24.”

“If the individual's WANTS are to be URGENT they must be ORIGINAL with himself. They can not be urgent if they must he contrived for him. And above all they must not be contrived by the process of production by which they are satisfied. For this means that the whole case for the urgency of production, based on the urgency of wants, falls to the ground. One cannot defend production as satisfying wants if that production creates the wants."

“Let’s talk about this a little. The problem that Phelps is talking about, which many economists of the time had been complaining about, was the balance in how society applies its human resources. He uses the words ‘wants’ and ‘urgent’. In today’s language, we would use the word NEEDS to mean urgent wants. The problem, which dominated humanitarian concerns during the early industrial revolution was the growing separation between the wealthy and the poor.”

"OK. So you mean the way government was designing the laws, some people were getting very rich while others were starving."

"Exactly. And the issue was a hot topic, and still is a hot topic, because the problem was not being created by laws that regulated something, but by laws that DIDN’T regulate something.”

Lord of the Flies model

"OK. I’m beginning to learn something about all of these issues. What you’re saying is that the principle of CAPITALISM, in its raw form, is based on a free market. But in the real world, especially with the curse of the Seven Deadly Sins, a free market results in very big concentrations of power."

"Bingo! And those concentrations of power, contrary to intellectual wishful thinking, will not graciously allow the free market to adjust for the best interests of mankind. This was the message of the LORD OF THE FLIES. In fact, the message of the Lord of the Flies is that societies, if left without controls, will become unstable and a few dominant powers will grow until they are limited by violence and catastrophic breakdown. Greed driven power.

Envy

Now, let’s take a look at a second Seven Deadly Sin: Envy. Phelps talks about that as well.”

“… EMULATION has always played a considerable role in the views of other economists of want creation. One man's consumption becomes his neighbor's wish. This already means that the process by which wants are satisfied is also the process by which wants are created. The more wants that are satisfied the more new ones are born. However, the argument has been carried farther. A leading modern theorist of consumer behavior, Professor Duesenberry, has stated explicitly that ‘ours is a society in which ONE OF THE PRINCIPAL SOCIAL GOALS IS A HIGHER STANDARD OF LIVING… [This] has great significance for the theory of consumption… the desire to get superior goods takes on a life of its own. It provides a drive to higher expenditure which may even be stronger than that arising out of the needs which are supposed to be satisfied by that expenditure.”

"Whoa! This observation isn’t as simple as it first sounds. I mean, it compounds run away consumption with envy."

"Compound is surely an understatement. This process is a disaster for society. Why? Because an A2 society can’t understand overall systems. They can’t see beyond Single Sentence Logic. To them, the string of logical thoughts are: ‘an improving society is better. Better is good for them. Improvement must therefore be good for society.’ Do you see the fault from a system standpoint?”

"Sure. Nowhere in that statement is there any element to bring the process into balance. There’s nothing about balancing improvement with cost. There’s nothing that acknowledges that ‘improvement’ might be a catchall word for a million sub-elements of improvement. Or that each of these sub-elements might have different value to different people."

"Hey, that was quite a mouth full from you that wasn’t just boots. Good job genius.”

"HEY yourself! I’m not done. This is a HUGE problem. If people are driven by ENVY to measure how well their life is, and the media deluges us with programs about rich and famous people, then the rest of society is going to always feel short changed!"

"Bingo! Instant depression! A whole new category of disease for THE RAPISTS… oops, I meant to say THERAPISTS - got to keep those letters together. I meant to say, a whole new category of disease for the ‘therapists’ to scam the public with.”

"But what you just said isn’t an exaggeration. If what people see on TV becomes a goal that they think they DESERVE, or that society OWES THEM, then they are doomed to frustration. And continued frustration is known to lead to medical problems and mental illness."

"Bingo! A whole raft of new diseases for the drug companies to develop drugs for. Open up extra saloons for people to drink their problems away. Crank out those credit cards! Take out a second mortgage on your house to buy a new yacht! The new American Dream - a vacation house in every country in the world!”

"Come on Ben! This is a huge problem!"

"No kidding Sherlock! Why do you think I brought it up? You think the world doesn’t have enough serious problems that I’ve got to invent new ones? This is a huge problem. And what is society’s response? CAPITALISM! WE LIVE IN A FREE MARKET!”

"Ughhhhhh??????? Buuuuuttttt ??????"

"Open wide seal muncher. Boots INBOUND!”

"Yeah! Yeah! But come on. Capitalism is a good thing. The free market is a good thing."

"Pay ATTENTION!!!! Single Sentence Logic! Until our A2 society learns to deal with life as a system, we are on the road to oblivion.”

"You mean SOCIALISM."

"NO, NO, NO, NO! SYSTEMS! Not socialism. We’ve already been over that a hundred times. You’re head is full of fruit salad!”

"I’m so confused."

"OK. OK. I’ll back off. But do you understand what’s happening to you? You’ve been brainwashed. You’ve been fed society’s diet of Single Sentence Logic LIES. When you try to put what you’ve learned into a logical system, it doesn’t work. So your middle brain, not being able to make the pieces fit, is sending you strong emotional panic messages. You’re getting the fight or flight panic, which in this case is flight.”

"Now you sound like George."

"Nanook. Life is a continuum. Life is made of humans under control of their brains. George is the key to understanding all of this.”

"OK. OK."

“Let me keep reading. Phelps does a good job summarizing this and showing how bizarre a twist it puts into our culture.”

“The implications of this view are impressive. The notion of independently established need now sinks into the background. Because the society sets great store by its ability to produce a high living standard, IT EVALUATES PEOPLE BY THE PRODUCTS THEY POSSESS. The urge to consume is fathered by the value system which emphasizes the ability of the society to produce. The more that is produced, the more that must be owned in order to maintain the appropriate prestige.”

"OK. Our basic social values, driven by envy, throw us into a NO WIN situation. OH WOW! I just realized something. This is what puts people on what we call the TREADMILL OF LIFE."

“Bingo! Alice in Wonderland. You have to run as fast as you can just to keep your place.”

"Yeah, wow. And you can NEVER reach what people think of as a GOAL because the goal has actually become the RATE that you are running."

“Bingo! Rats running in their wheels. PRODUCTION! Faster, harder, competition, grades. Let me keep reading.”

“It accords to the producer the function both of making the goods and of making the desires for them. It recognizes that production, not only passively through emulation, BUT ACTIVELY THROUGH ADVERTISING and related activities, creates the wants it seeks to satisfy.”

"So, there’s the connection. I wondered how this fit with what we were talking about."

“The businessman and the lay reader will be puzzled over the emphasis which I give to a seemingly obvious point. The point is indeed obvious. But it is one which, to a singular degree, ECONOMISTS HAVE RESISTED. They have sensed, as the layman does not, the damage to established ideas which lurks in these relationships. As a result, incredibly, they have CLOSED THEIR EYES (AND EARS) to the most obtrusive of economic phenomena, namely modern want creation. As a society becomes increasingly affluent, wants are increasingly created by the process by which they are satisfied.”

"And, if this is so obvious, why doesn’t society fix it?"

"Because society doesn’t know HOW to resolve conflicting values. Each occurrence of Single Sentence Logic is allowed to run on its own. The result is, nature takes her course and humanity just cleans up after the tragedy telling itself there was nothing they could have done about it.”

"You’re talking about the collapse of societies?"

Focus on the Quality of life

[Nanook is talking with Ben - &, Father Vincent - +, and George - %]

Goal of Freedom

We have been talking about freedom and fairness. But these are not the ultimate goals. They are just methods to get to the ultimate goal. The actual ultimate goal is HAPPINESS.”

"Ah HA! The old Declaration of Independence again - life, liberty and the pursuit of HAPPINESS."

& "Bingo! Which, by the way, were supposed to be God given rights, remember. Which He doesn’t enforce . . . . forget it. Rat hole. What each of us wants is a life that has certain attributes that make it enjoyable. These will be different for each person. So, let’s look at some of those attributes.

Individual Wealth

If you ask people what are the main factors for a good life, the most common factor will be MONEY. But when you analyze that, you see Single Sentence Logic at work. What good is money? You can’t eat it. It doesn’t make good clothing. It’s not efficient to burn to keep warm.”

"Obviously. Money is only good for what it will buy."

& "And that opens up the whole issue of how people decide WHAT they will buy. And that’s what drives our greed for money into the ground. Study after study has shown that money, ALONE, can’t buy happiness. People who win lotteries tend to keep the personalities they had before they won. If they were miserable before, they stay miserable afterwards, just with bigger problems. If they were poor money managers before, they are poor money managers afterwards. If they were happy before, they are happy afterwards. And it’s easy to find rich people who are unhappy and poor people who are happy. So, money isn’t the answer.

Quality of Life

What we need to focus on is what we call QUALITY OF LIFE.

Standard of living

"Second: GREED. And let me start with a specific form: entitlement.

Most people reject the idea that they are well off. Surveys show that the majority of Americans think only the rich are ‘well-off,’ despite the fact that MOST Americans live quite well compared to more than 99 percent of the human beings who have ever existed. Let me read about this from The Progress Paradox. Here he talks about the common view that the rich have everything and have it in higher quality, while the average person has NOTHING. The facts, of course, don’t bear that out.”

“… this [wealth] does not necessarily make them [the rich] happier … [they] have about the same education, drive on the same roads, visit the same hospitals, and, for good or ill, share the same elemental cultural experiences, namely television and the movies.

Through the past century the inventory of experiences a rich person can have that an average person cannot has shrunk steadily, to the point that there aren't many entries left on such a list. … by the standards of history, these are nothing compared to previous chasms in food, shelter, health care, and education…

Until the twentieth century, it was common everywhere in the world for the upper classes to live significantly longer than anyone else, owing to better nutrition, health care, and exemption from physical toil. As recently as 1870, the average lifespan of the British upper class was 17 years longer than that of the population as a whole, while today the difference between the richest and poorest Briton is less than two years. In England in the nineteenth century, the typical adult male from the working class was five inches shorter than the typical male from the upper class. Today, there is no class distinction in average British height.

Yet despite steady gains, it is common to hear Americans say, ‘My parents had it better than I do’… as they climb into a luxury SUV to head off for a restaurant meal… In one … poll-taken during an economic boom, 52 percent of respondents said the United States was worse off than when their parents were growing up, 60 percent said they expected their children to live in an even worse country, and a mere 15 percent said they felt overall national conditions were improving.”

+ "Since such views are so inconsistent with reality, but so common, there must be some common explanation.”

“In the 1950s, when most American families lived in small houses, owned one car, and few if any family members attended college, people were in good spirits because they expected soon to earn and possess more. Now most families live in larger houses, own at least two cars, and send most children to college - that is, they have what people of the 1950s [only] dreamed of having. But because most now have so much, it's hard to expect that the coming years will bring even more.”

Eating does not quench confusion

% "Very good example of the spiral of emotions. When people are confused, it registers as the emotion of anxiety, which generates hunger. To satisfy hunger, people eat. They eat food, but they also metaphorically eat all kinds of things. The buy STUFF. But what happens when all that stuff and a full stomach doesn’t make the ‘confusion’ anxiety go away? What if all that stuff leads to more confusion? Simple, but sad. The hunger doesn’t go down. It goes up. They need MORE! GREED! The spiral keeps going. Why? Because EATING does not quench CONFUSION. Keep reading.”

“… most Americans and Europeans already have what they need, in addition to considerable piles of stuff they don't need. ‘He's or she's so hard to buy for because he or she already has everything!’ This was said of the rich in our grandparents' day. Now it can be said of perhaps 500 million people in the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, and the European Union.

Work and leisure

The typical person’s total hours of life spent working has been declining. In the middle of the nineteenth century, the typical person spent 50 percent of their waking hours working. Today it is a little under 20 percent. Some of the rise [decrease] comes from higher numbers of longer-lived retirees.

This means leisure, once an exclusive province of the elite class, now is increasingly available to almost everyone - and, in parallel, the category ‘recreation and leisure industries’ now accounts for a larger share of the economy than the category ‘petroleum and utility industries.”

Denial, denial defense

% "Let me read something Eric Hoffer had to say about this. From Reflections.”

“The untalented are more at ease in a society that gives them valid alibis for not achieving than in one where opportunities are abundant. In an affluent society, the alienated who clamor for power are largely untalented people who cannot make use of the unprecedented opportunities for self-realization, and cannot escape the confrontation with an ineffectual self.”

"I don’t understand the significance of this."

% "The key is remembering what I called the DENIAL DEFENSE. Using this psychology, as long as anything is wrong, then the whole thing is wrong. So when you come across people claiming they are denied their equal rights, that they are discriminated against, but you can see that they already have a lot, but aren’t doing much with it, this is the explanation. They are in the house of mirrors.”

"Meaning, their world is filled with false beliefs that they use as excuses for their failures?"

% "Exactly!

Discontent of elites

But I want to be clear that this is NOT just a characteristic of poor people or minorities. There is a major component of this among the rich elite as well. Remember, wealth and wisdom are not synonymous. Let me continue reading from Reflections.”

“Next is a preference for bad news on the part of elites. Some of this might be explained as a conditioned yearning felt by the privileged to look down on the societies that create the favored lives they enjoy. To much of the elite ethos, if things are bad then the privileged may float above events feeling superior and asserting that they knew it all along. In Ivy League universities or similar places, depressing or pessimistic news is received with a welcoming sigh, as if the preferred outcome, while favorable news or optimistic trends are viewed as at best some sort of deception."

"So, he’s saying that when things in society are going well, the universities don’t find that encouraging?"

% "Right. Because then, the small folk of the world can manage on their own and don’t need to go crawling to the intellectuals for help. The authoritarian religions think the same way. Let me read something about this from the Progress Paradox. Page 103.”

“If elites like bad news, then the eagerness of intellectuals, artists, and tastemakers to embrace claims of ecological doomsday, population crash, coming global plagues, economic downfall, cultural wars, or the end of this or that become, at least, comprehensible. The riposte here might be that for every one tastemaker programmed for pessimism, there are a hundred middle-class suburbanites who could not care less what intellectuals say at the sherry hour. But the fact that elites prefer bad news has disproportionate impact, as elite views are disproportionately represented in the media.
…More generally, when things really are bad we naturally turn to eminent or powerful people for their advice and succor; when things are fine, the elite classes are of diminished importance to society. Important people like to feel important, and thus are biased toward viewing events in bleak terms. Consider that, … when nearly everything in the United States was trending positive, left-wing leaders as exemplified by the Manhattan chardonnay circuit, and right-wing leaders as exemplified by the Heritage Foundation circuit, slugged it out as though the world was ending: the left claiming religious fanatics were taking over the country, the right claiming the left was destroying the family and opposed to reading of the classics, to name a few totally cooked-up charges of that period. As Orlando Patterson, a Harvard University sociologist, noted … ‘It's astonishing how the Washington and New York elites, who benefit so much from the improvement of the United States, are so out of sync with it, endlessly talking about how things are getting worse when the country is clearly improving.’
To those who benefit from bad news, either by fund-raising or increased self-importance, problems are not just problems but crises - the health care crisis, the farm-bill crisis, the tax crisis, the welfare crisis, the litigation crisis, the postage-rate crisis. Surely we will awaken some morning to read about a presidential commission declaiming the bridge-abutment peeling-paint crisis. Problems are inflated into crises in part because, during a crisis, elites gain stature. World War II was a crisis; the current Middle East situation is a crisis; [but] 99 percent of the issues facing the Western world are not crises. But in contemporary public discourse, everything is a crisis - a notion talk shows and media outlets have an interest in promoting. The other day, I heard a foundation president being interviewed … proclaim a ‘SERIOUS crisis.’ What the ‘serious crisis’ was doesn't matter here; what mattered is that the word ‘crisis’ has so been devalued by overuse that now we must speak of the ‘SERIOUS’ crisis.’
Like elites and intellectuals, most politicians prefer bad news to good. In contemporary Western politics, the party out of power drastically exaggerates all negative trends while denying all positive developments, in hopes of creating voter anger and getting back into power. … when Democrats were the party out of power and most things were getting better, Democrats spoke as if the nation were going down for the third time, … saying … that the United States faced ‘the greatest calamity in the history of man.’ A few years later, when the Republicans were the party out of power and practically everything was getting better, Republicans spoke as if the nation were in deep catastrophe . . ."

"I’m sure this all points to some useful lesson?"

Misdirected goals

% "And so it does. Just let me keep reading.”

“… although average income, health, and living standards have improved steadily in the last two generations, people often are unhappy, because their expectations for the future are not positive. Recent studies of relative levels of happiness among nations show significant differences. One study of western countries found Netherlands, Iceland, Ireland, Denmark, and Sweden at the top with Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, and Bulgaria at the bottom. The United States finished number eight for national well-being. Scandinavian countries have such high well-being, many have speculated, because their governments have gotten almost everyone to the level of middle class.

A fundamental reason that acquiring money does not sync with acquiring happiness might be stated in cool economic terms: Most of what people really want in life - love, friendship, respect, family, standing, fun - is not priced and does not pass through the market. If something isn't priced you can't buy it, so possessing money may not help much.”

"This is a pretty profound observation. I know we’ve come across it before. But it is so important."

% "Exactly! And profound in multiple ways. It explains that material wealth doesn’t bring happiness. But it also gives us the key link to the Twelve Deadly Sins. When people don’t understand their true goals in life, they will be like squirrels in a cage. They will get on the treadmill every day and run their legs off and never feel they are making progress. They will lie, steal and cheat to amass a fortune, and then drown themselves in drugs and alcohol to evade the emptiness they still feel. These are profound words indeed. But where does this leave everyone else?”

"You mean the poor and middle class? I guess, if they measure success by the wealth of the elites, they feel like failures."

% "Exactly! So, what do they ALL conclude?”

"That their doomed!"

The failure of individualism

+ "Precisely! But that’s the opposite of what humans should feel. So, in a new society, we have to start from some very different foundations.

Freedom, we said, is a primary goal for humanity. But if freedom is taken to an extreme and results in individualism, it becomes isolationism. When things go wrong, there is no support structure to fall back on. When things go right, enjoyment by oneself is sterile. It lacks the richness of a social structure that multiplies the enjoyment by the number of people who can also share it. Let me reread something that I think summarizes this well from Paul Kurtz. Page 41.”

“Historically philosophers have recognized that happiness is a basic good of life, though they have long argued about its nature. Hedonists have maintained that happiness is the attainment of pleasure and the avoidance of pain; self-actualizers have said that it is the fulfillment of our potentialities. I submit that both ideas are involved in the good life, that we want enriched enjoyment and creative realization of our talents. If an individual is to achieve a state of happiness, he needs to develop a number of excellences. I will only list these, without explication: the capacity for autonomous choice and freedom, creativity, intelligence, self-discipline, self-respect, high motivation, good will, an affirmative outlook, good health, the capacity to enjoy pleasure, and aesthetic appreciation. MEN AND WOMEN DO NOT LIVE IN ISOLATION BUT FULFILL THEIR HIGHEST IDEALS IN CONCERT WITH OTHERS."

Comparison anxiety

+ "George. Please keep reading from the Progress Paradox.”

“Testing of multimillionaires on the list of the world's richest men and women found they have only slightly more life satisfaction than people living at the median income. Nearly all well-being research supports the basic conclusion that money and material things are only weakly associated with leading a good life.”

One study suggests that at today’s prices, the magic number at which money becomes unrelated to happiness is about $1,800 per person per year. Average income in the United States right now is $5300. The United States is long past the statistical point where, on average, money can buy happiness.”

As to why money stops buying happiness once people reach middle-class, there are several theories. First there is a difference between NEEDS and WANTS. A person needs food, clothing, shelter, medical care, education, and transportation. Once these are obtained, desires are driven by WANTS.”

% "And because of what Maslow tells us, and the Twelve Deadly Sins explain, WANTS can never be totally satisfied. The more you want, the more you acquire. But the drive doesn’t go away. Believing that buying things should bring peace, a person quickly becomes angry if buying things doesn’t do the job. Their first defense is to seek higher priced goods. But then we run into the SECOND KEY driver of the Twelve Deadly Sins: ENVY!”

"Hmmm. Key number one is Maslow’s basic biological drives to stay alive. Key number two is Maslow’s secondary biological drives, measured by your position relative to others in the society. Again, drives to stay alive based on fear."

% "Excellent! If rich people constantly drive past huge homes of people better-off than they are, or who are even not as well off, but who have some things they don’t have, they will still be discontented. They feel this even though, objectively, they are so immensely better off than most humans who have lived. Let me keep reading.”

“Today the average person’s real income is sevenfold greater than in 1918, and yet Americans feel dissatisfied and tell pollsters they believe life is getting worse. Back in the year 1958, one of the top-selling books in the United States was The Affluent Society by John Kenneth Galbraith. One thesis of The Affluent Society was that Americans already had so much they were becoming spoiled; another contention of the book was that standards of living had risen so high that they couldn't be expected to rise much farther.

The materialistic summit, Galbraith thought in 1958, had been reached because the typical family possessed a home, a car, and a television, and included one person who had graduated from college. One generation after The Affluent Society declared that America would not get much richer, average real income in the United States has more than doubled, huge houses with three cars and a wide-screen television have become common, the majority of children attend college: What were once luxuries are now necessities, and polls show most people think they do not have enough. Typically, regardless of how much money an American today earns, he or she estimates that twice as much is required to "live well.”

Entitlement – American Dream, the word NEED - cave as a baseline

% "And this leads directly to a better understanding of what we call ENTITLEMENT. Because humans are myopic and narrow minded, they only see a very small world around themselves. Today, that world includes television. So ENVY and DENIAL drives them to believe that they should have the best of what they see on TV. Instead of sorting out what a human NEEDS, from what they WANT, they demand that they NEED all of this stuff to achieve happiness. The word NEED, then reaches the BLEEDING HEARTS, who are driven to despair that some people in the world are not happy. The media has a field day with these cries of despair which stirs up the envy and denial further. This cycle needs to be broken. People need to confront themselves with reality.”

& "And I know just how to do it. DIG CAVES!”

+ "This is going to be good.”

& "Yeah! Look. We dig a bunch of caves. Then we guarantee that society will guarantee everyone a place to live. Everyone who can’t afford a home will get a cave.”

+ "OK ? I’m sure you have a basis for this.”

& "Right. The idea is that it will force people to be objective about what our society has achieved over the last 10,000 years. It will create a baseline environment against which to list out all the things people living today do have. We can then set out milestones so a person starting from their cave can achieve those milestones based on effort.”

% "Pretty clever Ben.”

& "And take this one step further. The whole concept of considering a stupid cave as one end of the social continuum that society will support, will create a model for how the other end of the continuum is also defined. Do you see it?”

+ "OK. Pretty clever. So, you’re saying, society would never actually go with the cave idea. There would be some type of contemporary home. But it may be fairly primitive. On the other end, however, the upper scale might not be so exaggerated either.”

& "Bingo!”