New Band of the Month: April – LCD Soundsystem

Every month this year, I’m dedicating myself to getting into a new band.  By ‘new band’, what I really mean is an old band who I’ve known of for awhile but have for one reason or another never checked out.  Maybe they were a genre I wasn’t into, maybe they were the favorite band of someone I didn’t like, maybe I was just lazy.  Whatever reason, I’m going to spend the month trying to get into them.

If, at the end of the month, I find myself enjoying the music I’ll buy an album.  And if not, I’ll save my money for something else.

My New Band for March is:

LCD Soundsystem

From the wiki page:

LCD Soundsystem was an American-based dance-punk band from New York City. It was fronted by American singer-songwriter and producer James Murphy, co-founder of record label DFA Records. The group released three critically acclaimed albums – LCD Soundsystem, Sound of Silver and This Is Happening with the last charting in the Billboard Top 10.

My personal history with LCD Soundsystem:

This is a classic example of why I started this feature.  LCD Soundsystem is one of those groups that has existed in my sphere of musical taste for years, yet I’ve never really given them much of a try.  That is largely due to the fact that they have been so revered in the Indie Music scene that they always felt a bit impenetrable.  They aren’t nearly on the level of the Pixies or Pavement (yet), but there is still this sense that LCD Soundsystem is Important Music, even while it seems simply to be poppy dance music with a darker edge.

As an act that is prominently featured on Pitchfork (and that ilk of website) whenever James Murphy sneezes, I’ve had some unavoidable exposure to their music.  In fact, I quite enjoy “I Can Change” and “Daft Punk is Playing At My House” so I fully expect to be a fan once I give them the chance.  I just haven’t yet, so that’s what April is all about.

I won’t have nearly the thrill of first exposure as I did with, say, Digable Planets, but in contrast I feel like I have enough knowledge of the group to have a solid jumping in spot for the music.  I’m excited for the prospect of finding out that I’ve been missing an integral part of my music library all these years.  But maybe I’ll come to the end of the month and feel all the hype was for naught.

Feel free to explore with me, or rediscover them if you’ve always been a fan.  And if you have suggestions for future bands I should feature, please mention them in the comments.

Past Months:

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band

Digable Planets



New Band of the Month: March – Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Every month this year, I’m dedicating myself to getting into a new band.  By ‘new band’, what I really mean is an old band who I’ve known of for awhile but have for one reason or another never checked out.  Maybe they were a genre I wasn’t into, maybe they were the favorite band of someone I didn’t like, maybe I was just lazy.  Whatever reason, I’m going to spend the month trying to get into them.

If, at the end of the month, I find myself enjoying the music I’ll buy an album.  And if not, I’ll save my money for something else.

My New Band for March is:

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

From the wiki page:

Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen (born September 23, 1949), nicknamed “The Boss,” is an American singer-songwriter-performer who records and tours with the E Street Band. Springsteen is widely known for his brand of heartland rock, poetic lyrics, and Americana sentiments centered on his native New Jersey.

The E Street Band has been rock musician Bruce Springsteen’s primary backing band since 1972.

My personal history with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band:

Uh, Born In The U.S.A.  Seriously, that’s pretty  much it.  I mean, like anybody who has spent any amount of time in a bar in the last, oh, I don’t know, 30 years, I’ve heard my share of Bruce Springsteen.  Yet, I can’t really claim to know many of his songs and have never listened to him on my own.  Seriously, check out my if you don’t believe me (one random play must have snuck through on their streaming radio).

I don’t know that there’s any great reason for it.  I was born right at the beginning of Springsteen’s rise to success, but by the time I was paying attention to music on my own, it was the 90s, and 80s rock was replaced with Nirvana and sarcasm.  That, of course, hasn’t stopped me from becoming a later-in-life fan of other 80s stalwarts like Talking Heads or The Cure.  No one in my life ever really listened to ‘the Boss’, so I never felt any inclination to care.

Which is why it’s always sort of blown me away how absolutely beloved Springsteen is throughout the country.  Obviously in New Jersey he’s bigger than Jesus, but people love this dude’s music all over the place, and while I can drunkenly mumble along to a few of his hits with the best of them, I have pretty much no knowledge of his vast library.

And vast it is.  Fugazi has a solid number of albums, but only a few that seemed ‘vital,’ and Digable Planets only produced two albums.  Having a representative experience of both band’s respective discography in a month was reasonable.  That won’t be the case with Bruce Springsteen.  I’ll likely focus on his most revered period, specifically Nebraska and Born in the U.S.A., but I know his fans would tell me there are a dozen other albums worth checking out (including a new one this month, I just realized; kismet).

I fully expect my frame of reference by the end of the month to be woefully incomplete, but I’m going to do my best.  Maybe by March 31st, I’ll see what I’ve been missing all these years, or maybe I’ll realize why I’ve never felt compelled to give the music a chance.  We’ll see.

Feel free to explore with me, or rediscover him if you’ve always been a fan.  And if you have suggestions for future bands I should feature, please mention them in the comments.

New Band of the Month: January – Fugazi

This is my attempt at a regular feature that is more, well, regular.

Every month this year (assuming no catastrophic changes in my life), I’m going to dedicate myself to getting into a new band.  By ‘new band’, what I really mean is an old band who I’ve known of for awhile but have for one reason or another never checked out.  Maybe they were a genre I wasn’t into, maybe they were the favorite band of someone I didn’t like, maybe I was just lazy.  Whatever reason, I’m going to spend the month trying to get into them.

If at the end of the month, I find myself enjoying the music, I’ll buy an album.  And if not, I’ll save my money for something else.

My first band for the year 2012 is:


From the wiki page:

Fugazi is an Americanpost-hardcore band that formed in Washington, D.C. in 1987. The band’s continual members are guitarists and vocalists Ian MacKaye and Guy Picciotto, bassist Joe Lally and drummer Brendan Canty.

Fugazi are noted for their DIY ethical stance, manner of business practice and contempt towards the music industry.

Fugazi has performed numerous worldwide tours, produced six studio albums, a film and a comprehensive live series, gaining the band critical acclaim and success around the world.Fugazi has been on indefinite hiatus since 2003.

My personal history with Fugazi:

Very little.  I’ve known the band name longer than I’ve known anything about them.  I once briefly dated a girl who worshiped Ian MacKaye, and as a teenager I listened to punk music, but of the pop/Christian variety.  I never exposed myself to the hardcore punk/post-hardcore bands, specifically those from the D.C. scene that really came to prominence in the 80s. 

My punk credentials always felt pretty weak since my favorite band of the genre was MxPx.  Once I stopped listening to them and most of the other bands of that ilk, I tended to gravitate towards the more technically skilled bands (e.g. Radiohead) or the more melodic, emotional singer/songwriters (e.g. Ryan Adams and Rufus Wainwright).  I lost interest in ‘rock’ music in general.

But, punk/post-hardcore music as a style and an ethos still appeals to me, and so I find myself drawn to bands I overlooked as a teen.

I’ve had three Fugazi mp3s sitting on a USB drive, thanks to my brother, that I haven’t gotten around to yet.  I’m unearthing them now to begin my exploration of the band with the following songs: “Suggestion,” “Bad Mouth” and “Waiting Room.”  I’ll have to track down more songs via the internet, through whatever options are available to me.

If any Fugazi fans stumble across this page, I’d welcome suggestions on ‘essential’ tracks or albums.  Otherwise, I’ll spend January exploring their music in any way I can, and come the 31st, I’ll either have a new album in my library or I’ll decide I wasn’t really missing anything all these years.

Feel free to explore with me, or rediscover them if you’ve always been a fan.  And if you have suggestions for future bands I should feature, please mention them in the comments.

Snap Judgments and Self-Fulfilling Prophecies


“It was a Jump to Conclusions mat.” ~ The fat guy.

I’m seriously not trying to read too much into this because it was really an insignificant moment.  But it illustrates a point so I’m gonna mention it.

A little more than a week back, at that whole Soul Club Shebang (maybe they should change the name to that), I had this minor, 15-second interaction that amused me.  When I arrived at the club, my friend and her friends were already there and dancing.  I ordered a whiskey and waded through the throngs to find them.  Once I did, I stayed on the outside a bit so I could drink until I achieved my dance-intoxication level.

A couple of the friends of a friend were a lesbian couple that I had met the night before.  We had chatted some that evening (not a lot) and parted with hugs.  As I was standing at the periphery of our group’s moving dance circle, mostly watching and sipping on my whiskey, one of the ladies in the couple curtly said, “Excuse me,” before gently jostling me aside so that she could dance next to her partner.

Now, I knew even before she addressed me that this woman didn’t recognize me.  There was a tenseness in her body language that told me she thought I was a stranger hovering around her (mostly female) friends.  It was a dark club, I was wearing a hat the night before, I wouldn’t have expected her to pick me out after only one other interaction.

Once she did recognize me, she apologized and it was no big deal.  It wouldn’t have been a big deal even if she hadn’t apologized.  I wasn’t offended and I knew what must have been her assumption:  I was just some creepy guy trying to grind up on some girls at a club.  I’ve seen plenty of guys do it and I’m sure she’s seen more.

An aside:  Hey guys, why don’t we all just agree to not be the creepy guy grinding on girls at clubs.  Deal?

Snap Judgments

It’s an interesting phenomenon, the snap judgment.

From an evolutionary point of view, it’s a necessary trait.  Creatures that react quicker to potential threats live longer.  Yeah, you might offend someone (or just look dumb), but at least you’ll still be alive to reproduce.  And that’s what it’s all about.

We jump to conclusions about people pretty easily, based on very little information.  Some times we get the opportunity to reconfigure those judgments over time.  Often, though, we never see those people again, or only ever briefly, and that initial picture we formed lasts. 

I know there is nothing profound in that observation, it’s part of our daily experience being human.  Yet, for a trait so obvious and, to be honest, banal, I can’t help but notice how frequently we ignore it and allow our snap judgments be our guide.

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

The real issue with the snap judgment isn’t that we make them, but that so often when we get a chance to recognize them for what they are and perhaps correct them, we instead stand firm and hunker down in our shortsighted opinions.

That chick was rude to you the first time you worked together?  Obviously a bitch.  So what do you do?  You treat her like a bitch every time you see her and, what do you know, she acts like a bitch to you from then on out.

It’s called a self-fulfilling prophecy and it is this common psychological phenomenon that is at the root of all stereotyping and prejudice.

The example I used earlier was minor and by no means an indication of that woman being prejudiced against men.  But it does illuminate the issue I’m referring to, which is our need to review every situation.  We don’t always have the time or mental capacity to give every person and every situation our full attention.  In order to take action, we have to form some sort of judgment, so we hastily form an opinion on the details that are most readily apparent.

There is nothing wrong with that, it’s an evolved survival technique that has obviously done our species a lot of good.  But it’s also done us a lot of harm, and the one great thing about our highly-developed minds is that we have the ability to rejigger an opinion after we’ve made it.  Unfortunately, we seldom do.


I am not a tourist.  Tourism is fun, it’s a way to briefly experience a lot of different areas, cities or countries in a short amount of time.  There are lifelong tourists who will experience ten times as many places as I will experience in my lifetime of travels, and I feel a pang of jealousy knowing that.

But there is only so much you can truly know as a tourist.  I’ve fully admitted that even in a year I don’t feel like I’ve ever had a definitive experience in a city, but when a tourist visits a city (for a day, for a week, maybe even a few months), they get an impression of the spot and then afterwards they are expected to tell their friends and family what that city is like.  It’s understood that this is just that one person’s experience, but it so often becomes the de facto experience of the city in those people’s minds, especially if there is no other opinion to serve as a counterpoint.

(Yelp, while helpful and usually insightful, is largely made up of tourist and one-time visit reviews.  From a customer service standpoint, I understand that “You only get one chance to make a first impression,” but one bad waiter or meal at a restaurant shouldn’t become the definitive review of any establishment.  I’ve been in the industry long enough to know that everybody has a bad day.)

How many times have you gone to a movie or a concert or on a trip with a friend, and when it was all done, they had a completely different opinion of the event than you did?  Granted, because they’re your friends, you probably tend to agree on most things but I’m sure disagreements happen from time to time.  Comparing multiple experiences, especially contrasting ones, is the best way to get a richer understanding of anything.

Arguments and Counterarguments

Most of us take our experiences and barricade ourselves behind them, seeking out the views and experiences of others only when they serve to reinforce our own.

When I wrote about the (weak) arguments against gay marriage in a previous post, I mentioned that if there is even one example of a gay couple raising a well-adjusted and successful child, it fatally wounds the assertion that gay couples can’t raise healthy children.  But some people still hold to that belief.

When we hear a counterargument to a longstanding belief or opinion, we very rarely try to process that new information and adapt our views.  Instead, we almost always rationalize away the dissenting view.  We all do it.  I do it.

When a view is a well-established and heavily supported fact or opinion, it’s fine to be intensely critical and skeptical of conflicting accounts.  For example, after a research team purportedly discovered neutrons traveling faster-than-light, a feat that is considered impossible and would undermine Einstein’s most famous theory and all the knowledge we’ve gained from it, the research understandably came under heavy scrutiny.  Even the original researchers were pretty sure they must have made a mistake somewhere (and it looks like they did).

But, when a view is nothing more than a snap judgment made because we didn’t have time to make a more thorough analysis, any contrasting view should be given equal footing.

The real danger of a snap judgment is that we’ve usually already fallen into self-fulfilling prophecy mode before we even take the chance to second guess the original judgment.  By the time we are in a place where we can question our initial evaluation, we’ve already self-selected, through our bias, examples that support our view.

Frankly, it seems like our entire political system is based on this sort of irrational conclusion-jumping.

As a species, we aren’t going to suddenly evolve out of snap judgments, but as rational beings, we can do our best to be aware of them.  Taking that extra ten seconds to contemplate a situation further could have momentous effects.

But, sometimes, the dude standing next to your girlfriends at the club really is just a Creep.

Never Retire

This Sunday, the New York Times ran an opinion piece by Edward Glaeser entitled, “Goodbye, Golden Years.

In it, Glaeser suggests that perhaps looking towards retirement isn’t the only way to envision our grayer years.  He presents substantial numbers in the piece to compare the percentage of retired 65+ers now to previous decades, but the important takeaway is that in our current economic times, retiring at 65 isn’t as easy or desirable as it once was.

“Well,” you might ask, “when should I retire?”


An interviewer asked me how I’m planning for my retirement, to which I responded that I don’t foresee ever retiring from writing.  Writing is who I am.  If I ever lose the desire to write, than you might as well just bury me (I can accurately gauge my level of depression by my desire to write).  Possibly, the question was meant to imply, “When you give up on this writing dream and get a real job, how do you plan to retire from that job?”

I have no idea, that isn’t even a consideration.

Retiring has always seemed to me like the thing you can’t wait to do because you are working a job you hate just to support your family.  In that way, retirement feels like a product from the 50s/60s era of work mentality (that is, of course, an oversimplification and a baldfaced generalization).

My impression of retirement is someone saving up money through 30 to 40 years of work and then spending their last 15 to 20 years traveling the world, seeing all the places they never saw as a younger person (or golfing in horrific pants).

Which is essentially what I’m doing now (not quite the world, not yet).  So, what would I do in my retirement?  Work in an office?  Golf?

No, retirement isn’t a stage in my life plan.  I’m not sure that it should be for anyone.

Work Until You Die

Two recent deaths have caught my attention, but maybe for reasons other than most:  Steve Jobs and Andy Rooney.

This isn’t where I offer some trite eulogy of either man, or lay out the facts of their tyranny either (though, I did hear that Andy could be quite a dick).  No, what struck me about both deaths is that each one died mere months after stepping down from their careers.

Both men had to know death was approaching, and so they retired to have a couple months reprieve.  Not years, months.  Both men clearly loved what they did, so they held on as long as possible.

This isn’t an uncommon phenomenon.  It’s well documented that having a purpose (job, spouse, child) helps people who are near death hold on longer.  Many people die soon after the death of a spouse or, as I’ve already illustrated, the retirement from a career.

But might I suggest that we think about this differently.  We are all near death.  We are all holding on because we believe what’s ahead has promise and what we have now has meaning.  Suicide is the other option, and if you’re reading this now, you’ve obviously not taken it.

The Proper Use of One’s 20s

Some critics have suggested that I’m wasting my 20s (not the majority opinion, but still a common one), that I will reach the end of this project and be starting my career at ground zero, whereas the others of my generation will have a ten-year advantage on me.

I see two problems with this viewpoint:

First, as the article above discusses*, people in their 20s aren’t finding careers like they used to be able to.  Unemployment among 20- to 24-year-olds is 15.5% (and not because 15.5% of them are lazy hippies).  I’ll be finishing up this project when I’m 32.  For a lot of people my age (by no means all), they will still be trying to get their foot in the door of their desired career at that age, or maybe starting over having attempted a career they found unfulfilling.

There will always be people ahead in the game.  Circumstances and luck play a part in all life paths.  22-year-old college graduates don’t all start off even and then just follow the rocket up to success.  Life is more complicated than that.

If I’m fighting for a career position when I’m 32 like so many others of my age will be, I’d like to think that this 10-year project will have proven to be something that sets me apart.  Certainly it’s taught me how to survive in lean times.  I don’t imagine being outgunned by a bunch of people who worked dead-end cubicle jobs for 10 years.

The second problem I have with this criticism is that people are assuming I’m not pursuing a career now.  I am.  My career is traveling and writing.  What do they think I’m going to do with a degree in writing?  Teach?  Can you imagine me shaping the minds of tomorrow’s leaders?  Egad.

(It’s not like teaching is all that stable of a profession, anyway.  Hell, if Republicans get there way, the teaching profession will make what I do look like a career in law.  Godspeed to all you current and aspiring teachers out there, I don’t envy your situation, but I appreciate those who do it.)

I’ll be done with the first major leg of my ‘career’ by 32.  I’m confident I’ll have a book deal by the end of it.  As far as careers go, 32 isn’t that old to find success.  That would be a reasonable age for a lawyer or doctor or fill-in-respectable-job-here to achieve a first milestone in their career.  The difference between me and those ‘real jobs’ is my doctorate program is on the road.

Am I guaranteed a successful book publication at the end of 10 Cities?  Hell no.  Nothing is guaranteed, not even for doctors and lawyers.  You have to fight for your successes, and that’s exactly what I’m doing.

Rethinking Age

Why must someone begin their career at 22?  Just because that’s when most people finish college doesn’t mean that’s when the exploration period of their life should end.  We are working longer.  We are living longer (well, you are; I’m gonna be dead at 42).  I think spending one’s 20s exploring different careers and cities and relationships is just common sense.  Why are we rushing to the finish line?

We’ve been programmed to think that we must get an education for 20 years, work for 40 years and then live in bucolic retirement for 20 more.  I think we can do better than that.

No, I’m not advocating some sort of hobo lifestyle of joblessness.  I’m saying, spend your 20s (and your 30s if you want) trying new things out, seeing what career suits you.  Your college degree doesn’t set your career in stone.  Why would you want your life to be determined by a decision you probably made hungover while playing Madden Football?

Don’t delude yourself, you’re still a kid when you’re in your 20s.  You are immature, stupid, inexperienced and completely full of yourself.  You are also in great health, energetic, optimistic and completely full of yourself.  Why waste those years? 

You could conceivably spend that time discovering a career you would want to work at until the day you died.

Besides, you might as well spend your 20s exploring, because the job market is shit and you probably won’t get the job you want, anyway.

(That’s called the Power of Positive Thinking.)

Make It Rain

I’m not naive.  I get what the rush is.  Money, money, money.  We want some of that sweet In-God-We-Trust nectar in our pockets.  You need to start early so that you can collect as much as possible.  And once you’ve got it, you’ll wisely protect it by investing in stocks and houses and 401ks.  Because, everyone knows, if you devote yourself to making money and horde as much as you can, nothing could ever possibly come along and take that away from you.


There’s nothing wrong with money or success.  But both can be fleeting, especially in a system where the richest, most powerful forces have no problem taking what you have and squandering it with shrugged shoulders and a sheepish, “Oops.”

If I have to choose between a career that makes me lots of money and a career that I enjoy, it’s not even a choice.

The difference between me and a lot of people (presumably the critics) is that I’m not saving for retirement.  I’m living my retirement dreams now so that if I’m ever old, I don’t have to be wheeled around to the Sears Tower or the Space Needle with my piss bag riding alongside me.  (Sorry for that image.)

Besides, I’m only going to live til I’m 42, so why plan for retirement?

*The article also mentions that, on average, American households only save 4% of their annual income each year.  Every year I save 15% or more.  Once I stop relocating every year and having to find new work, my saving skills will put me well ahead of the game.  Not that I’m playing.

The Rich Are Different Than You and Me

“Americans, while occasionally willing to be serfs, have always been obstinate about being peasantry.” ~ The Great Gatsby

It feels like this debate over wealth distribution has to be reaching a tipping a point.  Between the Occupy Walls Street Protests, the Republican candidate debates and the release of the report detailing “Trends in the Distribution of Household Income Between 1979 and 2007,” it seems that something’s gotta give.

Even as the Mirror Universe Tea Party protests seem to be gaining respectability and influence, with prominent publications finally taking the time to understand their message, the negative response to the movement remains steadfast in their conviction that the whole movement is nothing more than bums demanding that the rich give them their money.

After reading that Eugene Robinson WaPo opinion piece on the matter, what I found most interesting (besides for his very cogent and well-written points) were the dissenting comments (I’ve got a bit of experience with angry Conservative commentators).

Some choice examples:

“The thing is, the poor in America have more than enough opportunity to make it !
So please stop blaming everyone else for thier [sic] inability to achieve. “

“The “poor” willingly give their money to the rich when they buy crap that they do not need.”

Got to love these comments.  I mean, the first one simultaneously criticizes the poor for an “inability to achieve”  while displaying an inability to perform a spell check.  Priceless.  The second suggests that the poor are really all well-paid people who have just wasted all their rent money on Chalupas and PSP games.

Classic blaming the victim.  I mean, let’s face it, if she didn’t want to get raped, why did she wear such a short skirt?  Hello!

Steal From the Poor to Give to the Rich

You’d think that the poor were the ones with all the power, forcing the unassuming (and unwilling) rich to take more and more money.

Anyone who takes even five minutes to listen to the Occupy Wall Street protestors (preferably not an edited, flash clip on Fox News) will see that their message has nothing to do with demanding more money go into their pockets.  It’s about changing the legislation that has been bought by the rich to benefit themselves.  Unless you believe that wealth is an unfettered pass to do anything (possibly, you might), these protests should seem reasonable.

Even if you aren’t 100% in line with Occupy Wall Street, I bet you agree that a system that rewards wealth by punishing poverty is unfair.  Unjust even.

The fact that certain powerful interests attack and undermine the message of the protestors is no surprise.  The rich are going to protect their honeypot.  Far more confounding is the backlash against the protestors that is coming from within the so-called 99%.

Part of that is simple political allegiance.  Hippies and liberals are protesting something?  Gotta oppose them.

But, I think there is an even deeper psychological reason for the opposition.

Oh, To Be Ruled

There is a portion of society that, despite their lip service to democracy and equality, still yearns for the reign of kings.  They steadfastly maintain that some men are just better suited to lead, to guide, to have power;  simply better.  They believe in the rich’s superiority: intellectual, physical, moral.

Among a portion of the rich, this conviction might as well be common sense.

When the poor hold this notion, however, it is because they believe that poverty is just a temporary situation for them, a holding pattern until their talent or genius is recognized and rewarded.  They don’t count themselves as among the poor.  For other people, ‘poor’ is a trait; for them, ‘poor’ is a condition.

This is why the poor can so often be convinced to vote against their best interests.  Granted, often it’s because of an appeal to their religious values, but mostly it’s that they don’t believe the Poor’s interests are their interests.  What’s good for the Rich is good for them because, like a character in a Disney fairy tale, they are secretly royalty, their noble lineage merely waiting to be unearthed in the third act.

The Beverly Hillbillies

I’ve had a discussion with a family member who expects to be rich.  This expectation, they openly admitted at the time, is the motivation for their alignment with conservative fiscal values.  They want to know that if (when) they become rich, their hard-earned wealth will be protected from the greedy, grubby hands of moochers.  I suppose the logic of this is somewhat sound.

Except, getting rich in America through hard work, moxie and determination has about the same odds as striking black gold.  Sure it happens, but it shouldn’t be counted on, especially with a deck loaded so impressively against the working class.  Through various mediums, we are fed a constant diet of wealth and success stories that lead many to believe that any one of us is just a fat ass or YouTube video away from becoming the next Kim Kardashian (famous and wealthy for no reason at all).

I’m not suggesting that we should all collectively stop aspiring to success.  My project is rooted in an ambition for success (literary, if not financial).  Historically, America has been the nation that encouraged innovation and pursuing your dream, and that’s an admirable legacy.  The Occupiers are fighting to return this country to a place where such ambition has a legitimate chance of paying off.

Freedom and Ambition

Personally, I don’t define success as wealth, but rather as freedom to pursue one’s ambitions.  I think it’s a mistake to put too much focus on building up wealth.  The only sure fire way to be rich is to redefine the word to mean contentment with what you have.  Not complacency that immobilizes or strips you of ambition, but satisfaction that what you own is sufficient and anything more would be a pleasant but unnecessary bonus.

If I ever achieve great wealth – and I don’t think anyone could argue that I lack the ambition or will power to succeed – it will represent an advantage, not a validation of my worth.

That said, I recognize that money can provide personal freedom.  In fact, the very root of Conservative Capitalist philosophy is that a thriving, productive society provides greater freedom for its members.  ‘Freedom’ is the favorite word of any respectable capitalist.

But, the past 30 years have shown how that freedom can be stripped away from the poor (even the middle class).  Those with influence feed the lower classes a steady diet of “Unregulated Free Markets equal Freedom” and then dazzle the proletariat with visions of sudden success stories on “American Idol” and “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” always drawing attention away from the fact that for every overnight millionaire there are a thousand people trapped in poverty.

Whose Money Is It Anyway?

The wealthy are attempting to recontextualize and distort the Occupy Wall Street message into a capital ‘R’ Romantic horror story of hordes of poor banging at their gates, threatening to storm in and loot.  And the take away message is, “If they can do it to us, they can do it to you.  No one’s safe.”   It is an exquisitely told tale, but it’s more Grimm than grim.

There is a chasm of difference between asking for handouts and demanding that the playing field be leveled.  It requires tremendous audacity to claim that American citizens demanding legislative reform are the equivalent to panhandlers on the street corner. 

But this disinformation is spreading, largely because a hefty portion of the lower and middle classes have sworn to die for their king.

Unfortunately, if they get their way, they very well might.

All’s Fair In…

I’m not arguing that Capitalism should be abandoned (though, I have my problems with it), or that the rich should be punished for being rich.  I am, like literally everyone else, only saying that if we are going to have a capitalist society, it should be fair, not rigged in favor of the rich (or any particular group).  Some will argue that the system isn’t rigged at all, that what we’re seeing is just the natural free progress of Capitalism.  But it’s hard to look at the distribution of income data and not see a manipulating hand.

A fight for financial equality is not about forcing the rich to give up their legally earned money.  It’s about eliminating the loopholes and legislative padding that continues to widen the gap between the wealthy and everyone else.  It is indefensible that the income of the top 1% went up 275% over the past 30 years while the 20% of households at the bottom only went up 18%.

If those numbers seem reasonable to you, may I suggest a life of serfdom?