The Failing American Dream: There Is A Cure

abc_stossel_090910_mainIn April of this year, John Stossel wrote a thought provoking article about the ability of never quitting as being the reason America has been successful.

I quote him here:

In the USA, it’s OK to fail and fail and try again. In most of Europe and much of the world, the attitude is: You had your shot, you failed, and now you should just go work for someone else.

 

But this limits the possibilities. And some of America’s biggest successes came from people who failed often.

 

We know that Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, but few people know that Edison filed 1,000 patents for ideas that went nowhere. He was fired by the telegraph office. He lost money investing in a cement company and an iron business.

 

Henry Ford’s first company failed completely.

 

Dr. Seuss’s first book was rejected by 27 publishers.

 

Oprah was fired from her first job as a reporter. A TV station called her “unfit for TV.”

 

But they all kept striving — and succeeded. They were lucky to live in America, where investors and your neighbors encourage you to try and try again. We are lucky to benefit from their persistence.

 

But those happy experiments are less likely to happen today. Now there are many more rules, and regulators add hundreds of pages of new ones every week.

 

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban left school with no money and no job prospects. He managed to become a billionaire by creating several businesses from scratch. I asked him if he could do it again today, and he said, “No … now there’s so much paperwork and regulation, so many things that you have to sign up for that you have a better chance of getting in trouble than you do of being successful.”

 

That’s tragic.

 

It’s not just big corporations that get hassled by regulators, the way progressives might like to imagine.

lemonade-stand

Kids’ lemonade stands — and one I tried to open in New York City — are sometimes shut down for not having proper business licenses.

 

When Chloe Stirling was 11-years-old, health officials shut down her home cupcake-making business.

 

The more government “protects” us, the more it puts obstacles in the way of trying new things. It does that every time it taxes, regulates and standardizes the way things are done. Simultaneously, government offers “compassion” — welfare and unemployment benefits.

 

Faced with the choice of collecting unemployment or putting your own money at risk and hiring an army of lawyers to deal with business regulations, I understand why people don’t bother trying. When that attitude is pervasive, the American dream dies.

 

On my TV show this week, economist David Goldman says, “The U.S. government has done everything possible to make it hard for people to take a new idea from inception to startup to expansion.” He says that when he told a former CEO that he was going to be on my show, the ex-CEO said: “Just tell them to shut Washington down. That’s all they need to do!”

 

Washington won’t shut down. But couldn’t regulators just chill out for a while?

 

Big government doesn’t send us the message that we can make it on our own and that great things may happen if we dare to try. Government mostly hinders us, and then brags that it is waiting to take charge when we fail.

I believe that the American Dream can still become the American REALITY!

But it requires a singular mindset. We have to be willing to work hard and do things that we are not used to. It demands personal responsibility for our own outcomes and doing some double duty (working at more than one thing at a time). And we will have to spend less time watching “American Idol” and more time developing our ideas and taking educated risks.

170 years ago, Alexis de Tocqueville stated that, “[Americans] are constantly excited by two conflicting passions: they want to be led, and they wish to remain free. . . “

Tocqueville was very clear, it is impossible to reach our potential without taking complete responsibility for  our actions and owning our current conditions.

I have spent the entirety of 2014 to this point, speaking anywhere people would listen regarding this very issue and then offering solutions that the average American could engage to turn the situation around.

My main message has been that there is no political liberty without financial liberty and to engage in financial liberty or FREE ENTERPRISE, there must exist a certain level of political liberty.

cleon-skousen-speakingOne of my mentors, Cleon Skousen, always taught that the magic of America was that the citizens, free from government intervention, had the right to try, buy, sell and fail. And if you tried enough times, you would most likely succeed.

Today that philosophy has been replaced with that of avoiding risk at all cost and being safe and working for the government or a big multi-national corporation.

This sounds more like a personal wealth death sentence.

To have the kind of financial health that will allow a citizen to engage in liberty of all kinds requires enough residual income to meet all day-to-day living expenses plus 30% to provide citizenship activity flexibility (donations to or promotion of liberty causes or time spent at the state or federal legislature or local political service or speaking and writing, etc)

[Residual income, is income that continues to be generated after the initial effort or cost has been expended. Royalties or rent income for example, are types of residual income.]

For example, if your living expenses are $4,000 per month, you will need a minimum of $6,300 of monthly residual income or $76,000 per year (approximately 20% for taxation and $1,200 for liberty flexibility) to be economically independent and able to engage in liberty.

There is no longer any question, America faces a multiple front crisis; a serious retirement crisis along with a potentially disastrous national and personal debt crisis.

Most Americans recall the devastation caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. We sat in utter horror and even screamed at our computer screens as we helplessly watched people being swept away by the unrelenting waters.

The financial crisis we face today is no less menacing. The current financial tsunami is acting very much like the event of 2004. As the economic tide recedes, we watch not in horror but in curiosity or even total oblivion. The entire nation appears to be suffering from Normalcy Bias,* denying or ignoring that a crisis exists at all. All the while, the water has reversed and is now up around our ankles.

What needs to happen is that real men and women need to face their fears, be responsible and be willing to determinedly taking control of their own destinies.

If we yearn for our children and grandchildren to enjoy the freedoms that we do today, developing this level of Financial Freedom Health is a moral and familial imperative.

Take the Financial Freedom Health/Education Assessment and see how prepared you are to perpetuate financial and political freedom.

Financial Freedom Health/Education Assessment

  1. Do you have an adequate retirement plan? (Based on the $76,000 residual annual income discussed above, this means a $1,750,000 nest egg with a 4% annual dividend. Using the accumulation method at 7.9% earned interest annually, this will require retirement plan installment payments of $1,215 each month for 30 years. A business or a properly acquired real estate portfolio can accomplish the same residual income in a much shorter time and in a safer manner).
  1. If your current retirement plan is not adequate, do you have the skills and resources to correct it?
  1. Have you done sufficient research to really know if your retirement plan is crisis proof? 
  1. Do you review your retirement plan semi-annually? Are staying up-to-date on all law and policy changes that could impact your retirement plan and investments?
  1. Do you have enough knowledge to trust your retirement providers or are you “blindly”trusting them?
  1. Do you have a will or living will or a revocable trust in place? Why? Have you explored all options?
  1. Do you have your investments protected as much as law will allow? Are you sure?

If any of these questions are troubling to you, click here to begin a free course on financial freedom.

Col Sanders

In the USA, it used to be OK to fail and fail and try again.

Before Harland Sanders became world-famous Colonel Sanders, he was a sixth-grade dropout, a farmhand, an army mule-tender, a locomotive fireman, a railroad worker, an aspiring lawyer, an insurance salesman, a ferryboat entrepreneur, a tire salesman, an amateur obstetrician, an (unsuccessful) political candidate, a gas station operator, a motel operator and finally, a restaurateur.

At the age of 65, a new interstate highway snatched the traffic away from his Corbin, Ky., restaurant and Sanders was left with nothing but a Social Security check and a secret recipe for fried chicken.

As it turned out, that was all he needed.

If you, like Colonel Sanders, refuse to give up on the American Dream, click here to start your American Dream education.

 

* Normalcy bias refers to a mental state people enter when facing a disaster. It causes people to underestimate both the possibility of a disaster occurring and its possible effects. This may result in situations where people fail to adequately prepare for a disaster, and on a larger scale, the failure of governments to include the populace in its disaster preparations.

Atlas Shrugged: France Models The Future Of America

9780465092680_p0_v1_s260x420In his 2008 book, The Cube and the Cathedral, George Weigel writes a compelling story suggesting that if you want a good view of the United States 15 or 20 years from now, take a look at Europe.

More to the point are disturbing news reports that demonstrate spooky similarities to Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, being played out in France as you read this. Watch this Video.

Recent proclamations and “business as usual” from Congress and the Executive branch are providing more than ample evidence that American political leadership is following in the footsteps of France’s “Shrug,” and rushing with all its might to catchup with, and indeed overtake Europe in the race to fulfill some anti-Randian ideal.

In spite of it all, Monticello College remains dedicated to the proposition that the Unites States is a nation watched over by Providence, and that although she seems to have stumbled, America can be great again.

We are doing all that we are physically capable of to provide leadership and accountability to that end. Part of that effort is the debt-free building of our campus in Monticello, UT. Thanks to many of you, we reached our 2013 funding goal of $2,500 per month.

Our new funding goal or Phase Two of our building campaign is to secure 350 individuals or families who support Monticello College and are willing to donate $25 per month for 6 months.

Phase two is the build-out phase where we will develop facilities for summer programs and large group events and prepare for our first cohort of on campus students.  The funding goal for phase two is to raise $300,000. Step one of this goal is to reach $50,000 so we can begin construction by June 1, 2014.

Again, we need 350 individuals or families to contribute $25 per month for the next 6 months. We, of course, will gratefully accept any donation that you can offer.

Will you help us?

Will you be part of the re-building of our country?

To donate or for more info click below:

DONATE HERE

 

That Which is Seen and That Which is Not

Syria crisis: Obama 'has the right' to strike regardless of vote, says Kerry - The Guardian 9/2/13

Syria crisis: Obama ‘has the right’ to strike regardless of vote, says Kerry – The Guardian 9/2/13

The President of the United States believes that our role in the global community is to punish the Syrian government for military strikes on Syrian civilians resulting in hundreds of deaths and diminishing the Assad regime’s ability to deploy biological agents in the future.

Whether or not it is the duty of the U.S. to punish another sovereign nation against which we have not declared war is an important question.

Another pertinent question is, is it possible for the U.S. to retaliate on behalf of innocent victims without further civilian casualties?

War is armed conflict between nations.  It is unrealistic and dishonest to suggest that any act of war (or international violence) can be accomplished without civilian casualties or “collateral damage.”

Another questions is, is the U.S. bound by international law?  I have my own opinion, but what matters is, does the Obama administration adhere to international law or not?

Does the United Nations and the International Court of Justice have the force of law globally?  If they do have the full force of law, then how does Obama justify military action without the approval of the UN Security Council?

imagesThese questions and others to follow, came to mind as I was contemplating the advice that would have been given in this situation by the little remembered French economist and legislator Fredric Bastiat (1801-1850).

Bastiat is well-known by his readers for expounding the philosophy of “that which is seen and that which is not seen.”

In essence, he taught that every action taken based on what is seen or known in the moment would always be followed by a myriad of unaccounted for or unseen consequences.

He predicted that as we then attempted to deal with these unforeseen results of our initial rash actions, we would typically make more ill conceived decisions that simply complicate and make matters worse.

Bastiat’s solution was to think about the unseen for a long time before taking any kind of action, and like an expert chess player, think about the consequences of a single move many moves into the future before taking that first move.

Take Syria for instance.

images (2)WHAT IS SEEN? A totalitarian regime allegedly targeted civilians, hundreds were killed.

For this, the U.S. president and some members of Congress wish to respond with more military action.

WHAT IS NOT SEEN? This question leads us to ask more questions:

Were the targeted civilians viewed by the standing government to be actively engaged in the current rebellion against the Assad government?

Did the Assad government warn these civilians before the suggested attack?

Were known rebels using civilians as human shields and setting up their operations in civilian populations?

How will Syria and her allies react to U.S. military intervention?

How will U.S. intervention impact the region and consequently the U.S. economy?

How will the U.S. react if Syria or its allies retaliate?

How many U.S. soldiers will loose theirs lives in escalated U.S. intervention?

This thought process begs more questions:

What is the proper role of the U.S. government? Policing the world or protecting its soil and citizens?

Does the international community have the right to discipline the United States as it sees fit? If not, why not? And if not, why then do we have the right to take such offensive actions?

Are human rights and dignity best protected by military force?  What other options are there?

images (3)Does the U.S. government have the right to risk the lives of our soldiers— our fathers and mothers, our sons and daughters—simply to protect the rights of foreign civilians?

If yes, then why are we not intervening in the affairs of at least ten other troubled nations around the globe currently abusing the human rights and freedoms of their own citizens?

I don’t have all the answers but I do have many more questions that need to be asked and answered before I would be in favor of a strike on Syria.  I would ask lots of questions about our 12 years in Afghanistan and our more than 20 years in and out of Iraq.

Have we ultimately increased American freedoms and human rights through these military actions?  Was the cost worth the effort, or another way to ask the question, was the threat sufficient for the price we have paid both in lives and in dollars?

I encourage all of you to take some time to read the full essay “That Which Is Seen And That Which Is Not Seen.”

What Would Socrates Do?

This post is a tribute to Earl Shorris, one of my favorite writers on education who passed away in 2012. I am reprinting  the April 16, 2013 Wall Street Journal Book Review of his latest book, The Art of Freedom.  This piece was written by Naomi Schaefer Riley.

 

dog-SHORRIS--obit-articleInlineIn The Art of Freedom, Earl Shorris describes his efforts to establish a set of courses that would teach the core texts of Western civilization to people living in poverty, whose school experience had scanted the canon or skipped it entirely.

Almost two decades ago, Earl Shorris, a novelist and journalist, told the editor at his publishing house that he wanted to write a book about poverty in America.

The editor, to his credit, said that he didn’t want just another book describing the problem. He wanted a solution.

So Shorris, who had attended the University of Chicago on a scholarship many years before and who was greatly influenced by its Great Books curriculum, hit upon the idea of teaching the core texts of Western civilization to people living in poverty, whose school experience had scanted the canon or skipped it entirely.

His Eureka moment came when he was visiting a prison and conducting interviews for another book he was planning to write.

bh1He asked one of the women at New York’s Bedford Hills maximum­ security prison why she thought the poor were poor.

“Because they don’t have the moral life of downtown,” shereplied. “What do you mean by the moral life?” Shorris asked.

“You got to begin with the children . . . ,” she said. “You’ve got to teach the moral life of downtown to the children.

And the way you do that, Earl, is by taking them downtown to plays, museums, concerts, lectures.”

He asked whether she meant the humanities. Looking at him as if he were, as he puts it, “the stupidest man on earth,” she replied: “Yes, Earl, the humanities.”

Poverty, Shorris concluded, was a condition that required more than jobs or money to put right. So he set out to offer the “moral life” as well. Beginning with a class of 25 or so students found through a social ­service agency in New York, Shorris—along with a few professors he had recruited—taught literature, art history and philosophy. The first classes included readings in Plato, Aristotle, Thucydides and Sophocles.

imagesThus was born the Clemente Course in the Humanities, which is now the recipient of broad philanthropic support.

It is offered to the poor in more than 20 cities around the United States, as well as in other countries, from South Korea to Canada.

“The Art of Freedom” is a narrative of the program’s founding experience as well as a meditation on the Western classics and their effects on readers.

The book, sadly, appears posthumously. Shorris died last year at the age of 75.

The idea of the Clemente Course—named for Roberto Clemente, the baseball player who gave his name to the Manhattan community center where the course debuted—was to “educate a self­-selected group of adults living in poverty,” in classes taught by professors from nearby colleges and universities.

The spirit of the Great Books program was a key part of the idea: There would be no chasing after trendy reading lists or narrow relevance. When Shorris went to recruit students in the South Bronx, in New York City, a white social worker asked him if he were going to teach African history. “No,” he said. “We will teach American history. Of course the history of black people is very important in the development of the United States.”

downloadOver time, Shorris began to add texts from the various cultures where the course was being offered—Native American myths, South Korean novels.

But his focus on the Western classics was refreshingly relentless. He was accused of “cultural imperialism,” but the charge didn’t seem to faze him.

The Clemente Course now taught in Darfur, in the Sudan, teaches John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty.”

Shorris had no patience for mediocrity in his project and insisted on only the best professors to teach Clemente’s classes. When he had to find staff to teach in Chicago, he writes, “neither Chicago State nor the nearby community college . . . were up to the standards of the Clemente Course.”

In the classes he taught, he addressed his students with “Mr.” or “Ms.” He believed that a proper form of address conveys dignity and avoids the kind of casual relationship that most universities want their students and professors to have.

images (1)The Clemente Course differs from life at universities in other ways—for instance, by taking the Western classics seriously. How many college graduates have read Plato, Aristotle, Thucydides and Mill?

It also differs in its sense of what the texts can do.

Much of the liberal ­arts curriculum in universities today is devoted to learning about oppression of one sort or another, but Shorris argued that the study of the humanities is a fundamentally optimistic endeavor.

Not that Clemente texts are routinely cheery or anodyne.

Shorris himself taught Dostoevsky, “the brilliant archeologist who dared to make us look deep into our dark sides.” But Shorris did feel that, by reading and discussing classic texts, life was better or richer in some fundamental sense: more valued, more hopeful, more free.

download (1)One way that the humanities can help the poor in particular, according to Shorris, is by making them more “political.

” But, he writes, “I don’t mean ‘political’ in the sense of voting in an election, but in the way Pericles used the word: to mean activity with other people at every level, from the family to the neighborhood to the broader community to the city-­state.”

The humanities, he tells his first class, “are a foundation for getting along in the world, for thinking, for learning to reflect on the world instead of just reacting to whatever force is turned against you.”

Shorris recounts the story of a young man in his first class—a 24­-year-­old with a history of violent behavior—who called him describing how a woman at work had provoked him. “She made me so mad, I wanted to smack her up against the wall.

I tried to talk to some friends to calm myself down a little, but nobody was around.” Shorris asked him what he did, “fearing this was his one telephone call from the city jail.” Instead, he told Shorris, “I asked myself, ‘What would Socrates do?’ ”

 

This article once again makes the point of how simple and deep education should be.  Our efforts at Monticello College are inspired by the work of people such as Earl Shorris, Louise Cowan (a great educator and founding fellow of the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture), Viniece Walker (the insightful Bedford prison inmate) and the hundreds of other Liberal Arts advocates who understand the vital necessity of the classics to our culture and our civilization.

 

The Charles Schulz Philosophy






 

Charles Schultz

Charles Schultz

Although this philosophy has often been attributed to the creator of Charlie Brown and Snoopy, there is no evidence that he actually penned it.  Regardless who the author is, it still makes my point.

In our capacities as fathers and mothers, family protectors, and business decision makers, we all have to measure other people.

We have to judge who to trust, to help us, and who to lead us. Who will I trust with my kids?  Who will I do business with? Who do I trust as a political leader? Who do I trust for investment advise?

The list goes on.  What I am really saying is that we have to make judgments about others everyday.

The question is what criteria are we using when we make these judgments?

In the quest to build leaders it is easy to say that we want them to have impact in society, to make a difference, to “be the change we wish to see in the world.” Ok, I agree with that, but what character qualities, what skills, what disciplines do we want to inculcate in these future leaders to achieve the desired “change?”

What follows is the philosophy of Charles Schulz (or someone else).

1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.

2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.

3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America pageant.

4 Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.

5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress.

6. Name the last decade’s worth of World Series winners.

How did you do?

The point is, few of us remember the headliners of yesterday.

These are no second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields.

But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten.

Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.

And we seem to be little effected by these momentary achievements.

images (1)Here’s another quiz. See how you do on this one:

1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.

2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.

3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.

4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.

5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.

6. Identify 2 mentors who helped to open the doors of life for you.

7. Recall one act of kindness that forever changed your perspective on life.

Easier?

The lesson: 

The people who make a difference in your life are almost never the ones with the most credentials, the most money…or the most awards. They simply are the ones who care the most.

In fact, I submit that people who make a positive difference in your life are probably making a positive difference in the lives of others at the same time.  Good people are usually good to everybody.

These criteria should also apply to our leaders. High achievement is contagious and helps to raise the standard for all of us, so yes when possible we want our leaders to be the best in their fields, but we also need leaders who are not afraid to admit mistakes, we need leaders who genuinely care for others, we need leaders who are charitable in their private lives, we need leaders who are truth and principle driven, and who are self-deprecating and humble.

Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be [their] rulers . . .”

(Exodus 18:21)

It is time we reexamined this whole leadership thing.

images (4)After all, we are the ones who decide who we are going to follow—a basic requirement for leadership.

So if we get to decide who the leaders are why are we choosing so many bad leaders?

Or maybe bad leadership is not the issue here.  Maybe bad choosing is the real problem.

When we choose leaders, are we more concerned about what is in their hearts or are we more interested in what is in their wallet and how much that will benefit us?

When we choose leaders do we care more about how they think or who they know?

When we choose leaders are we more interested in what they do when few are looking or do we value the intuitive skill of smelling out a good photo op?

Again I say, it is time we reexamined this whole leadership thing.

 

Return of the Manual Arts

TWFWe have spent considerable space in these posts discussing education, particularly the liberal arts.

This post is dedicated to the lesser known side of our curriculum—the manual arts.

Manual arts are not something that the average American thinks about in the 21st century.

But a hundred years ago, the vast majority of Americans were engaged in the manual arts everyday.

In fact, excluding the last 60 years of developed nations, manual arts were the reality for nearly the entire global population. Even now, most of the seven billion inhabitants on earth engage in the manual arts daily.

Without the manual arts, most of what we enjoy almost unconsciously, would not exist.  In our high-tech, synthetic, and artificial world, we have reached a “roman” sense of existence—the only difference from then to now—we just have more sophisticated slaves.*

imagesIn a very thought-provoking article by Oliver DeMille, The Future of American Education: 8 Trends Every Parent Should Understand, DeMille gives us a glimpse of what we have become:

 

Since 2001 a number of social commentators have noted that as a society we are outsourcing more and more of the things that were typically done by families (one of the best works on this is The Future of Business by former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich).

 

For example, the following list includes things done almost entirely by families in the year 1900:

Childcare

Education

Eldercare

Counseling

Food Growing

Cooking

Cleaning

Reading Bedtime Stories

Sexual Intimacy

Home Repair

Taking Care of Animals

Yard Care

Role Modeling

Teaching Religion

Massage Therapy

Entertainment

 

The list has changed in the past century, and the victim has been the family.  Perhaps the “Big 5” on the list are:

 

Childcare, which has been outsourced, especially in urban America, to professional childcare institutions.

 

Food Preparation, which has been outsourced to fast food and pre-packaged meals.  For example, 1999 was the first year in which expenditures in the U.S. for fast food exceeded expenditures for groceries. 

 

Entertainment, which used to consist of families reading together or activities like group picnics and outings.  Today, even when families are together, they usually sit facing away from each other toward a television, movie screen, or sporting event.

 

Teaching Religion, which was once seen as the role of parents with the preacher lending a helping hand, is now almost entirely outsourced to the pastor or Sunday school teacher or to some secular alternative.

 

Education, which historically was overseen by parents who hired and evaluated teachers and did much of the instruction themselves, has now been almost fully outsourced to “the experts.”

 

Another huge trend, which already has drastic consequences that are only beginning to be understood, is the outsourcing of counseling between husband and wife (discussion of their fears, anxieties, worries and fondest dreams) to expert counselors.

 

Perhaps the 54% divorce rate in the U.S. is connected to this; as Allan Bloom** pointed out in 1987, people live, sleep and sometimes eat together, but they don’t think, dream and work together toward a common goal in the same way that our grandparents did. This delegation of intimacy to the experts may yet be the biggest trend of all.

 

And what is the impact of using videos or DVDs in the place of reading bedtime stories to toddlers?  The outsourcing of our families and the things only families can do well is a growing trend, and a very sobering commentary on the future of our society.

 

Historians might compare it to the fateful practice among French women in the 1750s-1780s of not nursing their own children—of instead turning them over to wet nurses. Few would argue that this was the only cause of the bloodbath and societal fall in the French Revolution in the 1780s, but almost everyone agrees that this was a significant part of it.

 

So, with all these duties being outsourced, what is left that only the family can do?  According to the new economy – nothing.  The leading view today is that “It Takes a Village,” that even love can be outsourced to teachers, coaches, clubs, and mentors.

 

The truth is that it does take a village, a community, but a community of families working, playing, cooperating and facing obstacles together, not a community of government institutions.

This idea of outsourcing seems to be a national pastime, albeit there does appear to be a small underground resurgence of the manual arts illustrated by websites such as theurbanfarmingguys.com.

One of the reasons we have disowned the use of the manual arts is due to the steady progression of technology.  The advent of labor saving devices (LSDs) has improved our lives in many ways.  It has also been the underlying source of a whole host of sedentary lifestyle diseases. Where is the balance?

images (1)Labor saving devises or the greater concept of saving labor has an interesting history.

From the advent of the Industrial Revolution, saving labor changed the world from mere survival to producing a cash crop beyond subsistence or allowing a farmer increased discretionary time for more favored pursuits.

By the 1970s the workingman was able to produce much more with a fraction of the backbreaking labor required a century before which stabilized into a 40-hour work-week…increasing discretionary time even further.

It also freed the American housewife of many undesirable chores, and like her spouse, freed up significant “my time”…but to what end?

If it was to allow them to relax a little more, no harm done. If it permitted more time to give to others or to develop talents–that would be good too, but unfortunately for most of people, it led to their less ambitious side with copious amounts of time being devoted to the latest entertainment and diversion– Television– late morning and afternoon soap opera TV series such as the “Dark Shadows” or “General Hospital”, and time devouring shows such as “The Price is Right.”

It allowed them more time to engage in recreation and entertainment on the weekends, often ignoring family, relationships, and service to neighbors, and expanding into long weekends which monopolized the traditional Sabbath for non-Sabbath day activities.

MA4By the 1990s we were thoroughly absorbed by a numbing consumerism, life had gotten pretty easy so labor saving was really no longer the goal, but keeping up with the “Jones,” and securing the latest fashions or gadget, or the newest car, or a bigger house was—this really exploded with the advent of computer technology, gaming, and home entertainment from the late 1990s to the present.

The latest chapter in our American LSDs story is resulting in skyrocketing obesity— 70% of all adults and 30% of children in America suffer from poor health and diseases not seen two decades ago.

According to Popular Mechanics (2011), every man should possess certain basic manual art skills.

They provided a list for men to become more manly, clearly an indication that males no longer possess these skills.

Removing anything on the list that was technology related, I am including the remaining 16 manual arts that the modern man has apparently lost:

1. Sharpen a knife

2. Patch a radiator hose

3.Frame a wall

4. Back-up a trailer

5. Build campfire

6. Use an ax properly to chop wood

7. Fix a dead outlet

8. Navigate with a compass and map

9. Fillet a fish

10. Get a car unstuck

11. Paint a room

12. Mix concrete

13. Clean a gun

14. Change oil in a car (and know that the filter needs to be changed too)

15. Paddle a canoe

16. Fix a bike flat

To this list, allow me to add a few of my own:

  1. Use a skill saw and/or nail gun
  2. Plant, grow, and harvest a crop
  3. Build a habitable structure
  4. Properly and safely shoot a gun
  5. Butcher an animal
  6. Cook a meal
  7. Prepare food for long term storage
  8. Build a solar panel/wind turbine and generate electricity

While writing this post, my 22-year-old daughter looking over my shoulder and seeing the topic, stated that of her closest 15 male friends ( ages 20-30) only one had competency with all the items on the Popular Mechanics list. Things that four decades ago any self-respecting man did himself–only specialists can handle today.

3rd World farmer is just a game, but it gives you a taste of what reality can be like in some parts of the world.

3rd World farmer is just a game, but it gives you a taste of what reality can be like in some parts of the world.

Today there are 184 million active facebook users in America (that’s 60% of our entire population) spending more than two hours a week on facebook, but if you factor in all online activities (all social media, all gaming,  all youtube viewing and other online videos, etc) the percentage sky rockets to almost 25% of our awake time.

For the average American over the age of 16 that can be as much as five hours a day, every day or the equivalent of an entire work week per month. This does not include texting, and playing games on our iphones.

This is all time wherein we are distracted from our loved ones, our community and our social responsibilities.

How do we not see that this is a monumental waste of our national resource of labor, not to mention a decline of our national character?

We are so far removed from reality that we even believe that we can get a sense of the plight of the third world farmer through playing a video game!

LSDs and the specialization of the consumer age has not only made us inept to care for ourselves, it has driven the cost of living many times over what it was just fifty years ago.  Are our lives really better and more satisfying now compared to the 1940s?

Working as a youngster on a dairy farm in the mid 1970’s, I worked along side sixty year-old men who never had high cholesterol and very little arthritis. They had no weight problems (a little pudgy maybe—they were in their sixties after all) and were active in every other way. They could put in a 12-hour day of hard farm work as easily as I could.  Yet today I see countless 30-something men who are overweight, soft, and would likely expire at the thought of hard physical labor.  What has happened to us?

We have forgotten the enjoyment of using our hands, the sense of pride and accomplishment that comes from “doing it ourselves” and the security of self-sufficiency.  We have forgotten that human beings are still needed for the most basic necessities of life—food still grows in the ground and must be harvested, fruits still needs to be picked from the tree, cloth is still manually fed into the sewing machine, and fossil fuels and natural resources are still wrenched from the earth— by hand.

Not having personal experience in the manual arts is one level of losing our humanity and threatens civilization—not remembering that someone is practicing the manual arts right now—is a much deeper and catastrophic failure.

wheatWe believe that every congressman, every police officer, every corporate CEO, every surgeon, every diplomat, every teacher, every real estate agent; every American citizen would make better decisions, have better morals, and lead happier lives if they were more engaged in the manual arts. In fact, we challenge our readers to do just that– find ways to more deeply engage in the manual arts.

One  of the greatest advocates of the manual arts in my opinion is The Boy Scouts of America program. I think in many ways, this program favored the engagement of  the manual arts and helped in the building of  stronger and more self-reliant citizens.

The manual arts are a natural cure for egotism, self-deception, and obesity.  The manual arts are an instinctive remedy for a troubled mind and eliminate the need for sleep aids. The manual arts will increase health, vitality, and improve your view of the world.  The manual arts enhance our powers of observation and appreciation.

Many of the manual arts involve dirt or soil or being outside in the fresh air—it is spiritually grounding and emotionally balancing.

Some of the least stressed and happiest people I know are masters of the manual arts.  The manual arts play a very real role on our campus and our students attest to this fact by find solace and even comfort in the working on the farm and even in the wilderness that surounds us.

The real test is for you to test yourself against the list above and

*At the peak of Roman culture there were seven slaves for every roman citizen. The Romans had for the most part completely shunned the manual arts, becoming increasingly dependent on slave labor and the importation of their food supply. We have reached a similar existence.  We are becoming more and more dependent on exports and even the manual labor done in this country is emotionally and culturally relegated to a certain segment of our population.

** Closing of the American Mind, Allan Bloom