Let there be light


andrew_carnegie_in_national_portrait_gallery_img_4441
Andrew Carnegi’s portrait from the National Portrait Gallery

At long last Election day has arrived.  Yesterday I laid down for a short nap — a nap that never came seeing as I got to thinking and got right back up out of bed — and I was reminded of Andrew Carnegie.   We’ve been listening to the likes of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton for months and I have yet to hear either of them come up with an idea as earth shattering as Andrew Carnegie’s idea.

A total of 2,509 Carnegie libraries were built between 1883 and 1929, including some belonging to public and university library systems. 1,689 were built in the United States, 660 in the United Kingdom and Ireland, 125 in Canada, and others in Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Serbia, carnegie-1903France, the Caribbean, Mauritius, Malaysia and Fiji. His motto was, simply, “Let there be light.” And I’m wishing there was anyone on the public stage who had the interests of the public in mind on the scale of a man who spent $100,000,000 to let there be light in a day when $100,000,000 actually bought something.

I expect that within relatively few hours a winner will be declared in the 2016 election but the real question will be whether the citizens of the United States have been the losers yet again?  Will we be faced with a congress that refuses to do the job it was elected to do because it’s members owe too much to special interests?  Will we have a President who has a vision for positive change — whichever of the two candidates wins.  Will we have a leader who will over the length of their term demonstrate that they deserve our respect; or will we have elected a buffoon and loose cannon;  will we look at 4 more years of military quagmire;  will the poor of our nation continue to suffer needlessly because rich politicians have no idea of what the citizenry are suffering?  We can all blame Obamacare for all sorts of medical problems, but anyone who thinks that the problem is Obamacare, and not rampant corporate greed that drives the medical industry then they are truly out of touch with the world.

The campaigning is over.  The election will be over in a few hours.  Who is ready to move forward building a better nation?  It is the peaceful transfer of power that has made the U.S. what it is today.  All the other ideas and ideals aside it has been the fact that following an election the nation has acknowledge one side one, the other side lost, and have committed themselves to moving forward for the next 2 or 4 or 6 years.  It’s the willingness to be ruled by law that has made us what we are today.  The ideals are part of it, but all the ideals in the world would be useless if anarchy reigned; if the citizenry refused to accept the vote of the people.  We would have become the dozens of other nations that voted only to have their vote overridden by coupe, by assassination, by the incursion of their neighbors.

It’s a real challenge we face tomorrow.  In a nation so divided, at a time when candidates talk openly about whether they will “accept” the results of an election only the populace can decide whether this country remains what it has been or whether we follow the pathway many other nations have trod into anarchy and panic.

I wonder how many of us recall Abraham Lincoln’s House Divided speech?

A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South.

You know, tomorrow morning we could re-write the words slave and free with Democrat and Republican and the meaning would still stand.  One party might replace the world “slavery” with some other word.  The other party might replace the word “slavery” with a different word.  But the power of Lincoln’s insight would remain.  Somehow we have to find a way to agreement.  All one thing.  Or all something else.   A house divided against itself cannot stand.

We talk a lot about the inevitability of change but I don’t think politicans believe in change in the same way the rest of us do. When Apple introduces a new smartphone we don’t hang onto our old phones — en masse we head to the stores to update.  In a gazillion other ways we embrace change as it happens if in fact we do not anticipate it.

It’s clear that the Democratic Party has embraced change in ways that the Republicans abhor.  In the same way that refusing to update your phone, or to update your Operating System means that the world moves forward without you;  policticians who refuse to move forward with the world around them are going to find themselves ultimately obsolete.

If the Democrats win change will continue. No surprise there.

dutch-boyIf the Republicans win the very nature of change will change — there will be an effort to return to something that once was. But you know that old adage about you can’t go back…. Rich white men will not succeed in diverting the tide of change.  Disillusioned white men will not succeed in halting the tide of change.  Angry white men will not succeed in stemming the tide of change.  Those who used to be in power will resent those to whom the tides of the future embue with power, but at some point the tide will roll over them.  The world will change whether or not Republicans want change.

Much of my life I voted independent, but favored Republican ideals. Republicans themselves have turned me off their ideals.  It doesn’t make sense to fight against the sea.  We aren’t little dutch boys with our fingers in the dam — preventing the ocean from breeching the levee. And there’s a lot of doggone leaks in the dam….

plugging-the-dam-with-fingers-and-toes

I hope we all have a good night’s sleep and wake tomorrow ready to start the work of adapting to the voice of the electorate.  Thanks for stopping, and I’ll be here again tomorrow regardless what happens with the election.

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8 Comments

  1. Ah, Peter…as usual, you have the gears in my head turning. Thoughts come to me as I read your posts, so many that by the end I don’t know where to start.

    Firstly, an aside on Carnegie…great philanthropist that he was. It was after years and years of oppression and greed and a dam breaking which cost the lives of thousands of people that he saw the results of deeds. He separated himself from the other capitalist kings, Rockerfeller and Vanderbuilt who continued along those lines…an act of which took much courage.

    Second, agree with comments on Obamacare…just as I mentioned yesterday, it is not the idea but the corruption and greed that infiltrates the good idea, which causes harm to the people.

    As far as embracing change is concerned, I agree with your sentiments but I have to question the methods of how one accomplishes funding these changes. A major overhaul is needed in the system because as it stands, the poor are just getting poorer and the solution seems to handle this with government subsidies which only enable a do nothing populace. Throughout history we have had economic woes, greed and corruption…can either candidate really change that? Teddy Roosevelt was the last guy who took this challenge on and made a difference.

    A house divided…was resolved at the cost many lives and still decades passed before any equality ever occurred…is war the only way to solve such division? I hope not! I hope there is still a chance to resolve our countries conflicts in the manner that MLK introduced…peacefully and firmly standing behind one’s convictions.

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    1. Karen, you know of course, that the problems this country is confronting are complex on many levels and there are intricate interrelations between the various issues that make even what appear to be simple choices very complex. The person who supports one of your most important causes may also be opposed to another one. How we individually harmonize even our own ideals — much less the ideology of an entire nation — is a Medusa’s head of quandries!

      I think it’s important to realize that no matter our ideals there are no pure solutions. As you mentioned yesterday about Capitalism and greed — the reality is that you are never going to get Capitalism without greed because the fundamental tenant of Capitalism is that one person gains at the loss of another person. It’s hard for people with assets not to have some level of greed if the choice is between them and someone else. Perhaps life should not be that way; but I see zero chance that will ever change.

      Agreed about what brought Carnegie to the point of philanthropy. In the same way that people change and mature through life I sometimes wonder if great abuse might not be necessary in order to inspire great philanthropy. The Gates and Jobs of this world, were not philanthropists when their companies were small. They, along with Donald and Hillary, socked money away and lived the good life for a long time. Some of the super rich find ways to look beyond themselves; others never do. How many of those who give freely are giving because they want to give, and how many are doing it to save on taxes and help themselves is a question we’ll never answer. There is probably more true philanthropy among those of modest means for whom giving hurts. But that was not my point. My point with Carnegie is about great ideas. About leadership. About setting something in motion that has huge benefits for others.

      There aren’t many people of great wealth who are willing to set themselves apart from others of their kind and do what’s good for the population rather than what’s good for the ruling class. And we do have a ruling class in this country. Money has no political boundaries. Money almost universally seeks more of it’s own; and those who control it will seek only more control.

      Whether Obamacare needs to be scrapped or revised is a debate that needs to go on — but under the current balance of power the likelihood that debate will happen is questionable. With Republicans promising to hold off any Clinton Supreme Court nominations it’s clear that they are not in a conciliatory mood if they should lose. And considering their 200+ attempts to repeal Obamacare even after it was law it’s clear that they don’t want to find a way to make anything work other than something they have originated. That is nothing more than arrogance and pride — but then rich people tend to be a bit arrogant and proud — doncha think?

      As for whether this divided house can stand without bloodshed — I don’t know. Humanity doesn’t have a great record of fixing things before they go haywire. Partly it’s our old friend “greed.” People don’t really want to change, no matter how much we talk about it.

      Well, we will see what happens and the tale will be told over the next 4 years; perhaps over the next 40 years. Four years are a flash in the pan.

      You know, I’m not sure there has been anything that this nation has been able to agree upon since congress agreed to build the US Interstate System. Of course that was built to transport military equipment in the event of a war on home soil — but it’s the one time that congress agreed to authorize and to FUND something for 40+ years in advance. We (as a nation) thought ahead then. We aren’t thinking ahead today. Not politicians, not business people, not the man on the street either — sometimes because they have no resources to plan with, but equally because they are too busy living to plan.

      I’m so curious to see how this plays out. Like being in Civics class all over again. 🙂

      >

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      1. Peter, I do enjoy our open dialogue and there is much of what you right that I am in full agreement with you.

        I have a different take on Capitalism and greed, partly because I have had quite a different role model than that of big business.

        My grandfather, after the death of his mother, spent quite a few years of his youth in a home for boys as an orphan. His brothers and sisters were farmed out to relatives, times were tight and his father was a traveling rep for the oil companies and could not raise his children on his own. His father regularly sent money and apparently stayed in touch with my grandfather because they eventually reunited as a family about ten years later. Suffice to say, my grandfather had no education and no job experience.

        At the time of his reunion, his father was working in a stock brokerage firm and my grandfather was a runner from the office to the exchange, sometimes handling large amounts of cash. His honesty and responsibility level impress the men at the brokerage house so much that they sponsored his entering a prep school to gain education. He completed that and went on to further his education, ended up with degrees in both Engineering and Naval Architecture and Contract Law. Now, I know this is all about education but he landed a pretty good job with the government, lived simply and invested in real estate and stock. He was a Shriner, supported helping third world countries and was a church deacon throughout most of his career. At one point he owned a strip mall. He was always fair in his dealings with others…no one lost, it was a win-win situation. He was a good provider and a decent man.

        When I think of Capitalism, I think of that type of opportunity that is available to any one who chooses to go for it.

        I don’t know if you have ever seen the John Stossel report on Greed. It’s on YouTube. Anyway he talks about the positive and negative aspects of greed and gets one to look at where we would be without it. But in everything, there needs to be a balance and we certainly have had and currently do have an imbalance…and in this sense…there are losers.

        And as far as Obamacare goes, it’s just my rant…I have been hit hard by it, economically. I get mad, especially since I just found out that my current premium is now 1/3 of my income and my income level is exactly what Obamacare was supposed to help. There is no way a person can survive this enforced medical program. I can’t and I am having to use my retirement money to pay for the premiums…just wish I was actually retired…okay end of rant.

        Thank you for being so easy to converse with. For many years I never expressed my opinion. When I made my major life change, I got my voice and I really do love the interchange we can have with each other and neither of us take it personally or as an affront. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Karen,

        I think we know each other well enough by now to be able to share without anger. 🙂

        I would never say that all of the aspects of and manifestations of Capitalism are bad. I have benefitted from it, others I know have, and obviously you family as well.

        I would suggest to you that the likes of us and our family barely ‘count’ in the real world of Capitalism. Let me illustrate from recent news:

        “In July 2016, UnitedHealth celebrated revenues that quarter totalling $46.5 billion, an increase of $10 billion since the same time last year. And company filings show that UnitedHealth’s CEO Stephen J. Hemsley made over $20 million in 2015. To be fair, that is a pay cut. The previous year, in 2014, Hemsley took home $66 million in compensation.” — https://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/health-insurance-industry-rakes-in-billions-while-blaming-obamacare-for-losses-110116.html.

        It’s not unusual for Wall Street Traders who have had a good year to reap in in excess of HUNDREDS of MILLIONS in profits for doing nothing more than buying and selling paper. They do not add to the GNP one penny by their buying and selling. The actually steal that money out of the economy for what skill? For what redeeming social quality?

        I’m not against profits; every company needs profits to survive. But I’m opposed to excess! Yeah — that raises the question of how much is too much and I don’t know who you get to decide that, but we live in a nation that thinks it’s great to pay professional athletes obscene amounts of money while teachers end up paying for their own supplies in the classroom. Profesisonal sports are part of teh Capitalist culture. They aren’t products but they are part of the buy and sell culture.

        And I fear that we are at a point in time when after 200+ years of living Capitalism we are discovering what the logical unintended consequences of Capitalism are. Surely the Founding Fathers never intended anything like we have now — but we have now because we’ve been walking down the same pathway for 200+ years and we are discovering by trial and error what happens when you give people that same buy and sell incentive that allows immigrants to become successful in this wonderful country.

        There are no controls. The poor are abandoned. That we have so many Vets living on the streets because what they gave to the nation that asked great sacrifice of them is not worth enough for that same nation to care for them in their need. Capitalism has no way of dealing with that. There is nothing in Capitalism that speaks for the downtrodden. Is there? Is there some aspect of it taht I’m unaware of?

        I’m with you on the injustice of the healthcare system. But as a pragmatist I question whether there is a will to enact any other system which leaves me thinking that the only way forward is to find some way of evening out the inequities — including putting some of that burden on the companies that aren’t satisfied with just how much profit they are making.

        I was once part of a group of philanthropists (not that I had much money — but I got access that that was what mattered to me at the time) who were wined and dined by a large healthcare entity in WI. They were very direct about the fact that they projected an AVERAGE increase in PROFITS of 15% per year. They spoke in veiled terms about how they were going to achieve that growth but face it — it all came down to getting more money from the patients. Wouldn’t you love to make 15% profit on your investments each year? And when they didn’t they raised their prices. Heck — the public utilities in Wisconsin can’t do that. If THEY want a rate raise they have to go to the Utilities Commission with an application, go through public hearings, and even then they are often refused the rate they asked for and are given something less — or nothing at all.

        I agree, and sympathize, but on a pragmatic level I don’t see the Dems and Republicans being able to agree on any new plan. I’m not even sure they can agree on some way to fix it. I kind of doubt it — based on the rhetoric we’ve been hearing. And I see no way to change that rhetoric.

        1/2 of the population think we’re going in the right direction, 1/2 of the population think we’re going in the wrong direction, and the other 1/2 of the population can’t make up their mind about which direction THEY are going much less which direction the country should be going. We’ve got ourselves in a pickle. I have no idea how we’re going to get out.

        Which is why I pointed at someone like Carnegie. I don’t see people with BIG IDEAS. The Steve Jobs (RIP) and Bill Gates of the world had their BIG IDEAS — but they made the world different and they made a fortune for them. But whether they made the world BETTER for John Q Public is a question that I don’t honestly think will have an answer for another 100 years. We have yet to see what happens when computers have run their course and something takes their place. Assuming humans are still on the planet. Becuase that’s yet another problem. At the worldwide birth rate and the rate we are wasting resources we can easily reach a tipping point for widespread starvation and pestilence and when people are hungry it’s easy for them to end up shooting each other.

        We’re in this together. We need to find some way out of this together. But I for one am looking for answers and I know you are too.

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  2. Peter, I hope you don’t mind that I shared this brilliant summation on my Facebook page. I have very few readers and it will only go to my like-minded friends! If you do not want this shared, I will remove the post.

    Thanks, by the way, for your articulate and heartfelt summation of the craziness we find ourselves in.

    Liked by 1 person

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