Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Sad Day for Irony

The New York Times wrote a piece about Walmart which Walmart "fact checked" which was then counter "fact checked" by the Huffington Post. <sigh>

The comments, as usual, are rampant and mostly side with the side of the article the person is reading. Feel free to wade in those waters if you like. But for me, the piece I haven't seen mentioned at all is something so painfully obvious that I just can't fathom how we haven't mentioned it yet. The one section of the original article that made me roll my eyes was this little gem:

It's a sad day when we have to look to corporations for education, health care and basic ways to boost the middle class. Most advanced nations do those things for their people. ... By default, we have no choice but to lean on our corporate overlords.

He's probably railing against corporatism and just doesn't realize it yet. There's much irony there, but that's not what made me roll my eyes. The question is much more obvious:

What do "advanced nations" do to generate wealth to fund education, health care, and boost the middle class?

I'm not an economist. I know very little. But I do know this: The only way a nation makes money is by people producing goods/services and trading them locally/globally. In other words, we create wealth when we produce stuff. Citizens, individuals, and businesses create value and trade in goods and services to such profit that the government can tax their activity to provide for things the government and/or its citizens want done.

The government does not have a way to generate wealth in and of itself. It takes a cut of every transaction -- including a car you buy used, which has already been taxed and, should it be sold multiple times, could be taxed for more than it was originally sold. In a very real sense, then, even if we were to find a government-run utopian solution to education, health care, and middle class boosting, we would do so by leaning on our corporate overlords ...our employers, be it ourselves or someone else.

So what is the article's author's solution?

Congress could raise the minimum wage, make college more affordable, or even make it universally accessible for all qualified applicants. At the very least, it could reduce the student loan burden.

Solution 1: Have the government create wealth. Uh, how is Congress going to generate the money needed to pay everyone more? Printing money does not create value, it creates inflation which reduces the value of the dollars already owned (which is great for people, or governments, in debt, not so good for people only buy what they can afford).

Solutions 2 & 3: Make college cheaper/free. How? Thus far, from what I've read, the skyrocketing tuition costs are precisely because of the government's involvement. I like the idea of free online education -- hence why I offer my own free film school -- but there are huge problems with free online education; my own experience has shown that students don't complete free online classes.

Solution 4: Reduce the student loan burden. I don't even know what that means from any kind of practical standpoint.

Any solution based non-ironically on irony is simply sad.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Guardian

Monday, June 09, 2014

Why Kids Today Can't Define Marriage

Marriage is about LOVE

This image showed up in my Facebook feed today, posted by one of my super-sweet "kids" whom I love dearly. But every time one of my friends shares these kinds of images, Duty Calls... not because I want to start a shouting match on Facebook, but because, as my friend, I feel like this person deserves to have a chance to at least think about these things for more than the time it takes to click "like."

Let's run through this, shall we?

1. What is love? (by the way, greatest proto-techno song ever <smile>) Or, to be more precise, how is marriage-oriented love different and distinct from the many other loves we have in life (family, friends, pets, technology [like for your iPhone or the near-future presented in the film "Her"], lovers, sweethearts, crushes, etc)?

2. Assuming we have a workable definition of what "LOVE" -- as mentioned in the photo above -- means, what is wrong with polygamy, polyandry, or marrying your children once they are of age? Is there? Or does Equal not mean Equal?

3. What is marriage? Marriage should certainly be about love ... but the thing something is about does not, in any way, define what it is. I know that may not be very clear, so an example: A television show can be about gay weddings, but it is not -- itself -- a gay wedding. So what is marriage?

4. Assuming we have a working definition of marriage, let us not forget the very insightful words of Jay Michaelson: "'Marriage will never set us free,' wrote academics Dean Spade and Craig Wilse last September, ... same-sex marriage is a step backward for LGBTQ people and others whose agenda is liberation rather than assimilation." [Hat Tip: Brian Sandifer]

Love is beautiful. Marriage is beautiful. Marriage is also (as rightly pointed out in the image above) more than a religious thing (though religion is there); it is more than a baby thing (though, as we know, that's there too); it's more than about money (though that's a big part of it, and the major reason why the government is involved at all). So, as it stands, marriage is a cultural phenomenon highly influenced by religious thought and political pressures. It also, depending on the history you read, has a strong basis in religious symbolism and ideals. We, as a society (especially within the church) have allowed it to stop being everything it is and instead joined the masses in believing marriage is about "being happy" and "love." But what it is, at its heart, that we have lost. And so, given that, I'm fine if our society wants to make marriage about "LOVE" of whomever or however many. That doesn't bother me. But the loss of what traditional marriage is and means, that is a significant loss indeed. Especially in light of the fact that most kids I talk to today can't even define marriage or why someone would want to get into it other than that they are "in love" and want to "be happy" ...whatever that means.

I'm not trying to stir up any heated arguments, I just want to point out -- again -- the silliness of these kinds of sentiments and how little thought there is behind them.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Guardian