Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Taking Advantage of the System

Taking Advantage of the System
Tony E Dillon-Hansen

Most people can agree they would like not to be poor, underemployed, or unemployed.  When that does happen, we do our best to get out of those situations because we have bills to pay, mouths to feed and simply would like to not worry about how to afford our basic need, the next item or next meal. We would like to be able to work to have more than simple foods on the table. With wages as they are today and life's basic bills, these are real concerns for Americans, especially those trying to get started in the workforce. Yet, there are people that abuse the system for personal benefit, and as a result of some high profile cases, Americans have become suspicious about any government proposals that claim to reduce poverty.  Are the attacks on poverty programs warranted?

We know that there are some people who in those unfortunate situations feel entitled to milk any resources from where ever they are being distributed without care.  There is a plain lazy, selfish and greedy aspect that is driving that set of people.  They provide a great example used by the supposed righteous among us to paint the picture of what all people do with government funds (never mind the actions of those doing this painting.) Selfishness and greed is, however, not a feature only of the unfortunate and the destitute.

It is no mistake that some have hid behind religion to elucidate their motives for abusing the system. Those supposed righteous people then persuade large swaths of the American people (using conjured inferences of facts, distorted media and cherry-picked phrases from religion) to look at the other "sinners" while they pillage the public treasury.

The righteous want a society that is comfortable with exclusion from access or even from recognition. They will divert attention from the pillage by showcasing differences in society (race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation.) They amass great wealth claiming the parable of talents as an excuse to hoard cash and while having contempt for the Sermon on the Mount by suggesting that poor people want to be poor and meek.

You have to wonder about these people doing the complaining because the loudest complainers are likely the guiltiest. There is little doubt that they are taking advantage of the system, but they are blaming the meager ones on the bottom rung of society for their mischievous actions.  There are farmers, landowners, businesses and corporate moguls that will use the levers they have in reach to squeeze out a little (actually billions) more for themselves. They, then, point fingers at families of the lower class that may claim collectively a mere fraction of what a single oil company or family like the Koch brothers will suck from the system.  They use these people that are grabbing after the scraps of society to scare the middle class into voting against middle class. They will have the middle class be more suspicious of the government, which is incidentally the only institution in our society that can guarantee equal access for everyone to quality education, health care, or even safe cars to drive.

Providing help to low-income (poverty) in America including the cost of Medicaid (which primarily goes to elderly and disabled citizens rather than people with children), Federal housing (WIC), TANF, child tax credits, SNAP, free lunch program, and the children's health insurance program (CHIP) combined are no match for the cost of oil subsidies, farm subsidies, and defense spending. Yet, the people receiving the large oil, farm and defense spending want to yell the loudest about others getting taxpayer money because apparently no one should benefit unless you have millions to spend.  The yellers are part of the richest and most powerful elites. They are part of country’s financial decisions, but they want to blame financial woes on those with the least power. Then, they scare the rest of Americans into thinking that supporting the poor will somehow make everyone poorer. Further, there are the people that are supposedly in support of the poor and meek are mishandling the programs, and that provides even more fodder for the critics of poverty programs.

In a capitalist society, no rational person would stop trying to acquire wealth. Regardless of an economic policy or social leaning, there is always an avenue to make money. People are able to become wealthy through strategic planning and use of resources (including people).  Without those resources, people could not get wealthy. The Republican establishment, along with many Democrats, realizes this and realizes that people with money in hand are likely to spend that money when they have some left over after bills. Major companies, like Wal-Mart, base their business model upon this premise. Volume sales require volumes of people with money to spend. The poverty programs help people have something to spend besides necessities of housing, food, education or health care. Additionally, those dollars turn into jobs. The programs also provide the safety net for those that get tossed out of the capitalist markets (e.g. unemployment.)

Further, educated people bring skills to work and tend to spend more money because they theoretically have more money. To deny the masses something like affordable, quality public-education through promotion of private and charter schools instead, like the TEA party proposes, means that families will be limited to basic needs and their children will not be able to afford proper education-the access to the ladder to success.

This can perpetuate a divide in our society between those who have and who have not. Yes, Americans should be cautious of more spending, but all programs should be scrutinized. If we are concerned about welfare fraud, we should be more concerned with the fraud, in billions, blown on companies that do not need the money.

Monday, March 3, 2014

What is Joy? Part II

What is Joy (Part II).
Tony E Dillon-Hansen
February 2014

Mental Illness and depression make people wonder what you do when you are depressed. Some wonder what to do when you are depressed and how to alleviate the affliction that no one sees. Part II of this exploratory means to explore some of the diverse ways people experience depression.  Again, I am speaking from my own experience, but hopefully, this dialogue will help others afflicted by depression to find opportunities.

We know that depression affects people of all stripes, stages, ages and opportunities. Yet, we compel ourselves to think of depression as dark, lonely corners and pin-striped attire with blank walls and motionless.  This is an image of the social stigma attached to depression.

Depression is often accompanied by withdrawing from activities, friends and family.  In severe cases, this can lead to total isolation and sometimes suicide.  Yet, in these moments, some of the world’s greatest minds have found unique, perhaps utterly artistic or genius, explorations of science, mind and body as a result (sometimes directly).  Some may consider this condition to be their “lot in life” as a result of poverty or some other tragedy in life and yet, do nothing to treat this. For many, these tragic experiences appear to come in multiples rather than as singular events.

I knew that there were different ways of thinking and treatment available. Depression could be a chemical or psychological condition, but there are emotional and spiritual elements that do not want to let go of the pain. I am also conscience of the idea that some of these professional “treatments” are destructive beyond the bad feelings to some people.

Aside from treatments, some believe that altering these feelings (specifically medicinally) as altering ones’ very being into some anatomic state of “normalcy”. Yet with this idea, we can wonder if the goal of treatment is to rid the world of ideas that could transform the society into merely something different.  Artistic expression and apparently un-orthodox ideas may provoke others to improve society when the person holding the ideas could not understand the value of oneself. When you can hear your mind debating the merit of basic activities, complex ideas of physics, social behavior, or political systems may seem easy to comprehend in ways that some have never considered.

For these reasons, among many, I have become willing to speak out about some things that should be said.  In some ways, I figured I had nothing to lose by issuing but I know the current process was making my condition much worse. The result has seen measurable process and management improvements. In my mind, maybe someone else or the whole company could find improvements rather than ignoring the issues.

The path of realizing one’s own pain journey may find many others also wounded as well because they happen to be in the path of the depression when the suffering person does not realize the pain they are pushing onto others.  I know that I inflicted pain upon people when they appeared to “attack” at the core of my wounds instead of relieving them.  Illusions can give someone many wrong emotions and impressions of what people are doing. Nevertheless, I cannot apologize enough to those whom I have injured regardless of how wrong or right I was.

I know, too well, what it is like to sit and to stare aimlessly and wonder if anyone cares or if anything matters.  I know that most people go about their business in life and do not worry themselves about these things. Worthlessness is powerful feeling that bleeds enthusiasm away from your soul and into despair. Whitman's words, "The question, O me! so sad, recurring-What good amid these, O me, O life?", but without an answer. Yet, depression seems as a way, if anything for those able to tolerate the impacts, have become somewhat “resilient” regardless of how much we hide from it.

I agree with Andrew Solomon in a TED talk where he states, “Depression is so exhausting. It takes up so much of your time and energy, and silence about it, it really does make the depression worse”. Without intervention or treatment, that time consumed by depression is more exhausting and extensive.  In his same address, he talks about how amazing that depression can be alleviated by people in most ridiculous ways “standing on your head” and only depressed people would understand or try just to alleviate their own affliction (that no matter how goofy the idea, you would be willing to give it a try.) Even an atheist may be willing to ask for divine intervention to escape from the torments, the horrors or from just being miserable.

I, like Mr. Solomon, agree to be grateful to be alive and that we live in the right time for figuring out depression. For me, I can see pictures of family and can see the pain in the eyes and wished I would have been able to help.  Maybe, I could have understood more about my own torment.

Depression has been here and is here. Depression is more than occasional bad feelings but is a perpetual perception of being lost and useless with nothing you can do to change direction. Everything seems to have more negative effort and events can provoke awkward responses. Intoxicants can amplify this impression and people around the depression (guilty or not may be injured.)

Again, if you feel you need help, do not be afraid to seek help. If you know someone who needs help, let them know who you are in their life. Life is meant to be lived and hopefully through the struggle that some of us with depression have, we find dignity in the simple work we conduct or simply that we have meaning in this world for the people that count upon us. Let your light shine (Matthew 5:16)!