Why Chicago Is Under Fire

For the greater part of this year the city of Chicago has been under the national spotlight over its skyrocketing homicide rate. Within the first three months of 2012 homicides were up 66% in Chicago. This year Chicago has had the highest murder rate amongst Alpha world cities with 19.4 murders per 100,000. This rate is more then New York (6.0) and more than Los Angeles (7.5), and ahead of Mexico City, Moscow, and São Paulo. As mayor Rahm Emanuel struggled to get a grip on the rise in crime he reverted to the age old solution of more policing. On August 31st Rahm Emanuel and police superintendent Garry McCarthy steped it up a notch by calling for federal assistance to help in the fight against the wave of crime and violence that has taken hold of the city. The federal assistance consists of U.S. Marshals, FBI agents, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The Mayor and superintendent’s plans for the federal assistance is to concentrate on the neighborhoods that have been hit the hardest this year by homicides. “The help comes in the form of additional agents to target guns, gangs and drugs,” Superintendent McCarthy stated at the conferences.

While the mayor sends federal agents out to Chicago’s hardest hit neighborhoods he continues to neglect the fact that these are temporary solutions to the symptoms of a greater problem, poverty. This is a fact that is not just neglected by Mayor Rahm Emanuel but by all media and governmental officials. Time and time again the problem of crime and violence is thrown on gangs and drugs. It is also common to hear dismissive terms such as “senseless violence” as if to say the homicides in Chicago are happening just because or without reason. But there is a cause and it’s not gangs and drugs but poverty and where there is poverty you will obviously find scarcity (lack of resource). Failure to recognize this fact is detrimental to human society because it presupposes that there are no borderline causes for peoples actions. Hence in the case of crime in America and around the world, punishment is the only solution presented when dealing with aberrant behavior.  It would profit mayor Rahm Emanuel far more to take a team of behavioral scientist to the hardest hit neighborhoods in Chicago to analyze the conditions which his citizens are living under that produces such behavior as opposed to a team of federal agents.  As obvious as 1+1=2, it is equally as obvious that poverty + scarcity = violence or in the case of Chicago homicide.

Looking at the public health statistic in the city of Chicago’s data portal you will find that the numbers in regards to poverty and homicide are consistent.

Top Three Impoverished Chicago Neighborhoods

  • Riverdale, 61% impoverished, homicide rate (per 100,000) 37
  • Fuller Park, 56% impoverished, homicide rate (per 100,000) 63
  • Englewood, 42% impoverished, homicide rate (per 100,00) 48

If you reverse the numbers you will see little to no homicides in the neighborhoods with the lowest poverty rates.

Top Three Least Impoverished Neighborhoods

  • Mount Greenwood, 3% impoverished, homicide rate (per 100,00) 2
  • Edison Park, 5% impoverished, homicide rate (per 100,00) 0
  • Beverly, 5% impoverished, homicide rate (per 100,00) 5

These statics are just a glimpse into what scientific studies have proven for decades and that is humans are products of there environment. No matter where you go in the world, from Compton to the Upper East Side of Manhattan or from the United States to Africa you will find these statics to be true. As long as we continue to pretend that crime is a result of people being lazy and not pulling themselves up by their bootstraps then crime will never be reduced in a significant way.

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Revolution over Reform

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.

-JFK

 

Looking at the world today with all its war, poverty, and disease it would be an understatement to say that we need a serious change in the world. This without a doubt, regardless of how far left or far right you may be in your political views, is something that we can all agree on. The unfortunate divide happens when we begin talking about what kinds of changes are necessary in order to change the world for the better. Ultimately, all ideologies aside, it boils down to one question. Do we want reform or revolution? I for one am for revolution, but what does that actually mean?

Throughout the centuries when one speaks of a revolution it is commonly associated with the violent overthrow of the current established government. But revolution is not an action; it is a process towards a tangible change whether it is in your personal life, community, society or world. That’s all revolution is, change. It is not to say that the associations with violent overthrow of governments are not true but it is important to understand the circumstances which produce the violent overthrow. It has been argued whether or not nonviolent revolution is possible and over all it is. We currently live in a top down hierarchical society in which we are all subject to the will of those higher up on the food chain of human life (C.E.O.’s, managers, politicians, etc.) where decisions are continuously made without the consent of those that will be the most affected by them.

In the case of a nonviolent revolution if people were no longer satisfied with living under this society they could began organizing themselves by pulling their resources together to create institutions that reflect their new found values. People could create institutions that are operated in a cooperative fashion in which a store, for example, is cooperatively owned and democratically managed by its workers. This form of organization would inevitably bring an end to the top down hierarchical model of institutions.  As this form of organization begins to spread amongst the people one of two things will happen. Either the proponents of the current established order will recognize the movement of the people and accept this new form of organization or the current established order will use whatever means necessary to preserve its self. Historically the latter prevails and it is at this junction that the violent overthrow begins.  It is not violence for the sake of violence on behalf of the revolutionary. Almost every “violent revolution” in human history was provoked by the established orders inability to recognize and accept the new found wave of values that was approaching them. Revolution is not inherently violent neither are so called revolutionaries. As stated earlier those who call for revolution are simply calling for a complete change in how society is operated.

On the other hand as opposed to revolution there is reform. Those who are for reform do recognize the faults in the current social structure but believe that these faults can be resolved without a complete removal of the current social structure. In the case of reform the current established order remains intact with only a few minnow alterations in regards to how it operates. The issue with reform is that typically it only benefits those of the generation that is currently seeking the reform. But has no tangible effect on the generations preceding it because by that time the established order has already figured out a way around the reform. If not completely removing it all together on that grounds that the reform has done its job in straitening up society and is no longer necessary. In essence reform is merely the same old thing in a different way.

In the case of the United States,  since 1776 we have had thousands of reforms yet here you are reading this blog trying to figure out why life and society is so flawed and what you can do about. Malcolm X summed up reform the best in the case of the desegregation reforms that were put into law in the 1950’s. He stated, “It’s a victory with no victory. It’s a victory that you can talk about but a victory that you can’t show me.” The truth is that more people then are willing to admit are for revolution but are afraid to admit it publicly because of the association of violence that is attached to it. I for one am not afraid to admit to that I am for a revolution in society. How about you?

I Hate My Job…And So Do You

In late October 2011 a very telling Gallup poll was released in regards to the state of American workers. In it, the Gallup poll revealed that 71% of American workers are either “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” at their jobs. Though this is hardly a shocker for the common worker, what this poll does provide us with is the official validation of what we have known all our adult lives and that is, work sucks. With the overwhelming number U.S. employment being low wage service sector jobs, it is hardly a mystery to why workers feel this way? How “engaged” can one actually be from behind the cash register? Or from behind a cubical for that matter, spending day after day staring into a computer screen punching in numbers. As for myself, in regards to those who are “actively disengaged”, I have stopped being surprised at bad customer service. Bad customer service is to be expected when a 20 hour a week employee is given a 40 hour a week work load for minimum wage. Furthermore according to another, separate, Gallup poll “American workers who are emotionally disconnected from their work and workplace — known as “actively disengaged” workers — rate their lives more poorly than do those who are unemployed.” (Gallup poll by Jim Harter and Sangeeta Agrawal)

Once again this should not be shocking because to be unemployed and struggling is one thing. But to have a job and still be struggling is a completely different class of its own. The issue at hand is not a matter of laziness but lack of purpose at the work place. Day after day we enter the daily grind of work but for what?  Every day is the same, wake up, go to work, go home, go to sleep. Take that and combine it with the lack of work place autonomy and low wages and what you get is not just an unhappy worker but a very unhappy human being. Society is long overdue of a reevaluation of what it means to work, how work should be approached and if work, as traditionally practiced, is  even necessary at this junction in time (hint, Resource Based Economy) but one thing for certain is that 72% of the working population knows that something is wrong in regards to work. The question is what will we do about it?

We Just Got A Little More Civilized… Just A Little

June 25, 2012 will forever mark the day in U.S. history when we took another very small step towards becoming civilized. On this day the Supreme Court ruled, in a close 5-4 decision, that mandatory life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, for juveniles, is unconstitutional violating the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. 28 out of 50 U.S. states mandate life terms for murders, which includes those under the age of 18. There are currently 2,500 inmates who are serving life sentences for crimes they committed when they were juveniles. 2,000 of those sentences were imposed because they were mandated by legislature, according to the Associated Press. Those Supreme Court Judges in favor of the ruling included Justices Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Kagan. After the ruling Justice Kagan stated.

“Mandatory life without parole for a juvenile precludes consideration of his chronological age and its hallmark features — among them, immaturity, impetuosity, and failure to appreciate risks and consequences,” Justice Kagan added. “It prevents taking into account the family and home environment that surrounds him — and from which he cannot usually extricate himself — no matter how brutal or dysfunctional.”

(N.Y. Times)

This ruling by the Supreme Court is significant to the effect that it requires, for the first time in U.S. judicial history, the court to apply some factors of the scientific method before sentencing a juvenile. Meaning the court can no longer solely look at the actions of the child and blindly say, you did a bad thing, so that makes you a bad person, lock him up and throw away the key. From here on out the court must consider the age of the child, his environment and life circumstances which brought him to the point where he is today. In essence the court would be getting down to the root causes of the child’s actions. Though this may seem like a big step forward it is actually a very small step do to the fact that the child offenders may be getting a lighter sentence but still won’t be getting the proper rehabilitation necessary to change the child’s physiological state and make him a functioning member of society. In the end the child will still go to jail. Further more, why not implement this ruling in all criminal cases including adults. Is it not better to figure out the root causes of all criminal behavior other than blindly throwing them in jail. But once again it is all in vain if we do implement this ruling yet continue to simply put children and adults in jail, rather than rehabilitating them to become fully functional members of society. As necessary as this ruling was, we’ve clearly still have a long ways to go to becoming a civilized people.

The End of Money

It has been said that money is the root of all evil and for the most part that saying is correct. The number one cause of crime, divorces, arguments, fights and just about every problem that you have in your life boils down to one common denominator and that is money or lack thereof. This is not to say that money has always been a great evil that humanity has had to deal with. But when one takes the time to review the evolution of money and the role that it has played in society it then becomes clear that use of money has become obsolete and hence a problem in modern society.

One of the earliest forms of physical currency was commodity money. Commodity money were objects that had direct value in themselves (tobacco, corn, wheat, leather, alcohol, gold, silver etc..) and could be used as a medium of exchange for other goods. One of the key problems with commodity money was that, like bartering, it required a “coincidence of wants”. Meaning, if you walked into a shop with tobacco as your commodity money but the shop owner had no need nor use for the tobacco then you could not purchase anything in the shop. As time progressed more and more people began using gold and silver coins as a medium of exchange due to the inconvenience of storage, transportation and decaying of commodity money they possessed. This is a very important mark in the transition to take note of. The shift from commodity money to coinage made goods more liquid because the actual coinage had a single recognized unit of exchange.

Shortly there after, along side with coinage, came representative money (paper money, gold standard). Representative money (paper money, gold standard) was backed by an underlying commodity, in the case of the United States the underlying commodity was gold. During the time of the “gold standard” in the United States you could exchange you dollar for gold and that is what gave the dollar actual worth. This reduced the need of having to actually walk around with physical gold, it was simply a lot lighter on the pockets. The practice of purchasing goods with gold and other precious metals continued until 1933 when it was banned out of fear of hoarding gold during a period of economic depression in which maximal circulation of money was desired by influential economist. In 1971 the gold standard was officially banned by President Nixon due to foreign arbitrage during the Vietnam War (Nixon Shock).

(Example of Arbitrage)

Suppose that the exchange rates (after taking out the fees for making the exchange) in London are £5 = $10 = ¥1000 and the exchange rates in Tokyo are ¥1000 = $12 = £6. Converting ¥1000 to $12 in Tokyo and converting that $12 into ¥1200 in London, for a profit of ¥200, would be arbitrage. In reality, this “triangle arbitrage” is so simple that it almost never occurs. But more complicated foreign exchange arbitrages, such as the spot-forward arbitrage are much more common.

The elimination of representative money brings us to where we are today, Fiat Money. Fiat money is a form of currency that is without any intrinsic value. Essentially the dollar in you pocket today is merely a worthless piece of paper whose value is established by government decree. Fiat money is the current prevailing form of currency in the world today. One of the main problems with fiat money is that because it is not backed by a fixed amount of gold or any other commodity of worth it can be printed at will. Unregulated this eventually causes hyperinflation.

Upon the examination of the evolution of money there is one thing which sharply stands out. Which is, up until this point in humane history money has always been, essentially, a tool of resource management guiding the distribution of goods accordingly. During the time in humane history when scarcity of goods were real it was necessary for money to exist in order to prevent rapid shortages of goods that could not be quickly reproduced, due to the lack of scientific and technological understanding. Today, scarcity in the world is not actual but deliberate simply to maintain our old outdated social structure. Currently,we have the technological understanding to produce the necessities of life for everyone on the planet without the need for money,  it is merely a matter of applying it. Money is no longer necessary in human society.

At this point in time money dose nothing but cause problems. The next time you see a homeless man laying on the side of the road, stop and think about why he is homeless. Is because there is it because there isn’t enough housing. Nope, as you drive around your city there are plenty of vacant apartments and condominiums that you see everyday. Then ask yourself why is the homeless man hungry. Is it because there is a shortage of food. Nope, every time you walk into a grocery store the shelves, not including the stockroom, are filled with more food than they can sell that they eventually end up throwing out. Then why, why is he in such a horrible state, oh yeah, its because “he can’t afford” any of those things, that’s why. Well why doesn’t he stop being lazy and get a stupid job. Yeah, a stupid job, you know what I’m talking about. Kind of like the one you (the reader) wake up and go to everyday, standing behind a cash register or sitting behind a cubical in an office, that kind of stupid job. The stupid job that you hate going to everyday and then will call a homeless person lazy for not having when in actuality your just jealous because you wish you didn’t have to work like the homeless man. As a matter of fact why don’t you just quit your job and pursue that thing that your actually passionate about, oh yeah, “you can’t afford to”.

The End of History or Just the Beginning?

Since the fall of the Soviet Union many scholars have declared that the world has reached the end of its ideological debates and that there is no longer any viable alternatives  liberal democracies. No one has become more known for this argument than Francis Fukuyama who in the the summer of 1989 wrote an essay, published in The National Interest boldly titled The End of History

The triumph of the West, of the Western idea, is evident first of all in the total exhaustion of viable systematic  alternatives to Western liberalism….. What we my be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.

Since then many have opposed this view of “the end of history”, mainly proponents of communism, but it would appear that many more have accepted it. It is not uncommon to hear journalist, pundits, and politicians, when questioned on the state of the world, with all its problems, to answer by saying, “the system is not perfect but its the best that we’ve got”. Even the everyday common man, when posed with the same questions will simply through up his hands and say, “that’s just the way it it”. But is it really just the away it is? Looking upon the world with all of its poverty, disease, inequality and endless wars, is this really the best humanity can do? Have we actually reached the end of history? By no means. To say that we have reached the end of history is to break the number one law of the universe which is, the only constant in the world is change. It must be reiterated, nothing in the universe let alone the world stays the same forever. Humans have been wondering this earth for millions of years and have constantly evolved socially from hunter gatherer to agrarian societies, monarchies to representative democracy (Liberal Democracy). So with the understanding that nothing is forever, the question then becomes, what comes after Liberal Democracy. In the past, many throughout the world believed communism to be a viable alternative but history has shown that communism (as it has been historically practiced) does not work. But over the past few years a little known idea, introduced by Jacque Fresco, has been bubbling over the surface of the consciousness of the people which is slowly but surely beginning to take from and that idea is a Resource Based Economy. A resource based economy is an economy not based on the movement of money but rather the intelligent management of the earths resources through the utilization of current technological and scientific understandings.

Society is a technical invention and the most efficient methods of optimized human health, physical production, distribution, city infrastructure and the like reside in the field of science and technology, not politics or monetary economics. It operates in the same systematic way as, say and airplane and there is no republican or liberal way to build and airplane.

-Peter Joseph (Zeitgeist: Moving Forward)

The three short short videos at the bottom will help you understand the concepts and values of a resource based economy.

For more detailed information you can visit “The Venus Project” and “The Zeitgeist Movement

Don’t be afraid to learn something new.