Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Academy loves Gore; Oprah loves the Academy

After Sunday night, one thing's for sure...the Academy loves Gore! And I'm not talking just about "An Inconvenient Truth"...but the Best Picture winner is a gore-fest of violence. I thought maybe, just maybe, "Little Miss Sunshine" or "The Queen" would upset the prognosticators, much the way a little film about racism and coincidences of convenience crashed last year's expected win for an unconventional love story. But beyond that, it was great to see Gore get some recognition for his passion...the environment. True to form...he may have won the Oscar for his documentary, but he doesn't get to take one home to put on his mantel. He won it for someone else. I was pleased to see the director allow time for Gore to give an acceptance speech. Earlier in the broadcast, he did a brilliant joke with Leo DiCaprio about making an announcement that a billion people were awaiting to hear, when the orchestra cut him off in mid-sentence. It was good schtick, but I knew he wasn't going to announce anything. I'll have to post later what I think of the race to the White House in 2008, but for now, it was good to see Gore get the accolades he so deserves. Hopefully this is just the forerunner to the Nobel Peace Prize selection later this year.

The next day, the rightwing hacks were already out with their messages of hate. It's always so amazing to me how a politician can tell an unpopular truth (such as Gore did with his stance against the Iraq War), yet the rightwing bloviators will spin and spin their propaganda and lies in hopes of deceiving the people, while they ignore the lies and false predictions made by their chosen politicians. How many more soldiers are going to return home in coffins or with life-threatening injuries instead of the flowers and chocolates that Rumsfeld and Cheney promised would happen? How long does it take for a group to dissolve after being in its "last throes"? What about those WMD that Rumsfeld swore was in the "Tikrit Triangle north of Baghdad." He was so confident he knew where they were. Condi said that we didn't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud. But maybe, "mushrooms" are exactly what the rightwing has been smoking these past few years. After Katrina, propaganda from the Bush team seems to have fallen on deaf ears. How appropriate. Everyone is probably familiar with the story of the boy who cried wolf. He loved to rile his townfolks up, but when the wolf really did come, no one believed him and he got swallowed up in his own lies. So...the more the rightwing attack people like Gore, the better Gore looks. So, thank you Academy voters for giving him a great night. He deserves that and more for the trying year that was late 2000 and 2001.

Flipping the switch, last night, I watched Oprah's special on the new Leadership Academy for Girls that she has founded in South Africa. I also read a tabloid article critiquing her for spending over $40 million to establish a school in her name far off in South Africa when we have so many poor, inner city children in our own country. I honestly don't like the me-firstism that some people think should guide our actions. The poverty in South Africa is a lot worse than in the U.S.A. I know. I was there in 1994 and saw Soweto with my own eyes. It was the most eye-opening experience I had ever had. I had never seen poverty like that before. It was unbelievable. Even poor people in the U.S. have television sets. Do they know what it's like to live in a shack made of 5 sheets of aluminum? How many Americans use outhouses still? With half the world's population living on less than $2 a day, why begrudge Oprah for the charity that she's doing in a country that really needs it. We should support and foster relations with South Africa, because it is perhaps the country that resembles a photo negative of the USA. Our two nations are alike in many ways, with a similar history of racial segregation; pioneers settling the interior; and our beginnings as an outpost colony for the British Empire.

Oprah is right when she said that the materialism of American kids drove her to help poor children in another country. There is something so repugnant about our materialist culture that has warped even the children who live in poverty. Who can blame them, though? Because they have television and go to school here, they can see the emphasis people put on material goods, whether in hip-hop/rap videos ("in America, it's bling-bling; out here, it's bling-bang" said Leo DiCaprio's character in "Blood Diamond"), on TV commercials, in conversations people have, on entertainment shows and magazines. Other countries don't have our crass materialism, so I praise Oprah for doing something good with her money. Before people criticize her for the charity work she does, they should put their own money into causes they believe in. We might not all have $40 million to spend, but I'm willing to bet that most of her critics would spend $40 million on themselves first before they spent it helping inner city American children. If they really cared about inner city children that much, do they vote Republican? Do they write to their political leaders and lobby on behalf of the poor? Or would they rather go shopping and vote for tax cuts and war? It's hard to say...but our country didn't find itself in the mess it's in because people were conscientious about their money. I think it says more about the critics than it does about Oprah.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

My Neo-Con Education

That'd be the godfather of neo-conservativism on the right (Leo Strauss)

I didn't realize it at the time, but in college during the late 1990s (1997 through 2000), I was fed a neo-conservative propaganda diet by well-meaning college professors. (And people think colleges are a bastion of liberal/Marxist-Leninist ideas!) Of course, I went to BYU, a conservative university, but while the Political Science department did skew slightly towards liberalism, that still didn't make professors immune to the books and ideas put out by the neo-cons. Several professors promoted so heavily the books "The End of History and the Last Man" by Francis Fukuyama and "The Lexus and the Olive Tree" by Thomas Friedman in several of my political science classes that I thought they received a secret kickback from sales of those books. There was discussion on creating a Democracy Corps, which I was actually excited about. And of course, during my college years, Saddam Hussein kept acting up, begging for an attack that Clinton weakly responded to with multi-million dollar missiles fired from U.S. Navy warships in the Gulf and the continuation of sanctions which the UN began reporting that mostly children were affected by it. During my college years, Osama bin Laden made his presence known as a menace to American society with the embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, but Americans were distracted by a oversexed tart named Monica.

Anyhow, I remember hearing professors promote the book "The End of History and the Last Man" and was rather baffled. End of history? That title was so arrogant to me that I was immediately turned off. The premise was no better...as Fukuyama claimed that with the end of the Cold War, capitalism had won the debate and the reason for the end of history was because capitalism proved itself to be the ONLY acceptable economic scheme the world has to offer. Whoa, I wanted to say. Not so fast. Any reader of Marx's "Communist Manifesto" (which was required reading for anyone who takes a Political Science or Economics class) can see some of his critiques have merit...such as the inherent exploitation that exists under capitalism. While I was in college, sweatshop labor and our country's odd bending of the rules regarding employment standards and the "Made in the USA" label was an issue among college students nationwide. Even TV news programs featured stories on the darling of the conservative right, Congressman Tom Delay and his boondoggle visits to the Pacific island of Saipan, a hotbed of sweatshop labor in which naive Asian ladies are promised jobs in the United States but end up working like slaves on an island that isn't even a U.S. state, yet clothing made there were allowed to carry the "Made in the USA" label. How can this exploitative system be the end of history? History is more than economic systems. Fortunately in 1999 during a World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle, protestors showed the world that the debate wasn't over. Capitalism might have defeated communism, but that didn't mean it was perfect, flawless, or that history is over.

Of course, 9/11 changed everything. Suddenly, neo-cons were backing away from their arrogant boasting of history having reached its apex. Now, we were in a clash of civilizations between western values and a tribal culture that won't accept our economic scheme. So, has history been reborn? The irony in all this is that the person picked to lead the rebirth in history is none other than a history major himself, George W. Bush. However, I wonder what kind of history he studied to earn his Yale degree. It was a history that didn't focus on Vietnam or the Middle East, for any student serious about the study of history would know what a folly the whole Iraq war would be. His father knew enough about the volatile Middle East to remain in Kuwait in 1991. But the neo-cons conned a president who didn't learn his history, and now we are where we are...deep in the Iraqmire with no good options before us (leaving would affect our country's security for the worse in the future; staying means more of my generation is going to die or have life-limiting injuries). What a fiasco!

Back when professors were promoting the neo-con agenda, I did like the idea of a Democracy Corps, in which a group of people would be sent to a country and help them transition from whatever system they had or didn't have, and teach/train future leaders the basics of good democracy ("colonialism light"). However, in the debates of 2000, candidate Bush critiqued the Clinton Administration for sending troops out on exhaustive peacekeeping missions and vowed to have a "more humble foreign policy." A promise not kept, of course, but I didn't understand why he was so against a Democracy Corps and international peacekeeping missions...and now has become a go-it-alone aggressor that seeks to start conflicts where none existed before. It's completely illogical. Because of his incompetence and arrogance, I lost my belief that a Democracy Corps would be a good thing. Instead, I go back to our founding document, the Declaration of Independence, which states that all peoples have the right to SELF-DETERMINE their form of government. What that means is that we Americans have to allow foreigners the right to choose their own government. Even if it's a dictatorship, it's up to the people under that oppressive form of government to overthrow it, not our responsibility. In addition, we would help the cause of liberty around the world if we no longer made alliances of convenience with oppressive governments, such as with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan. After all, George Washington's warning when he left the presidency was to stay out of the alliance system (for good reason, as our twisted history since 1945 can well attest).

Ultimately, capitalism is under siege, and because of examples like Enron and Halliburton, I think we're far from an end of history. Some day, even capitalism will be replaced by a more spiritual economic system, which I call "Ethiconomics", where exploitation of the poor and glorification of the rich is no longer deemed just or acceptable. It will be a system in which ethics rules, where people like Cheney (the ultimate posterboy of capitalism without morals) will be punished and the average citizen will have more than enough to live comfortably on. That is the dream to work towards, but even then, history won't end until the planet no longer has human life on it to record events. To say otherwise is silly arrogant posturing by out of touch intellectuals in their ivory towers and well-funded corporate think-tanks.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Crichton v. Gore

A few nights ago, the Charlie Rose Show had the interview I have been waiting for...an hour with my favorite living writer, Michael Crichton. A couple years ago, Crichton wrote a controversial novel (well, okay, so when HASN'T he written a controversial novel?) about global warming being more alarmist than reality. That novel? "State of Fear", which I actually enjoyed, though I didn't agree with his conclusions. So, Charlie Rose just had to ask him about his views on that. In particular, I loved that Charlie asked him what he thought of Al Gore. Crichton kept insisting that he liked Gore, and hinted that he would have preferred a President Gore than the one we have now (who wouldn't?), but he insists that Gore is wrong on the global warming data, going so far as to claim that Gore hasn't done his homework.

Crichton is obviously a very smart guy, for he has the uncanny ability to "foresee" controversial issues ahead of time to the point where his novels are published in the midst of whatever controversy is going on (in 1992, it was anti-Japanese sentiments; in 1994, it was sexual harassment; in 1996, it was airline safety; and when "State of Fear" came out in 2004, the novel included a frightening tsunami event). However, he also likes to twist conventional thinking a bit, for instance, making the man a victim of a female's sexual harassment. Going against conventional thinking shows how independent he is, yet is it responsible? Though I devour his novels when they come out, I don't buy into his premises. He offers an addictive read and I haven't been disappointed yet, but as much as I enjoyed reading "State of Fear", I didn't buy his argument that global warming is a manufactured crisis to put us into a "state of fear" from which people in power can continue to manipulate us in going along with whatever scheme they got going on. Part of his argument rests on the fact that scientists had claimed in the 1970s that global cooling was going on, so he asks, how can they do a 180 degree reversal? After painting a horrible future of a new ice age, now they are talking about rising temperatures that will wreck havoc on our ecosystem and cause hundreds of millions (if not a billion) environmental refugees from the low lying areas of our shrinking landmasses.

Unfortunately, if Charlie Rose wants that debate, he should have invited Gore to debate global warming with Crichton. That would be a great debate, as it pits my favorite writer against my favorite politician. But, based on my limited knowledge (and I am far, far from being any expert in science, considering how my flunking Biology 101 was the one stumbling block that kept me from earning my Bachelor's Degree until late last year when I finally made up that credit to graduate), I'm convinced that global warming is no science fiction tale meant to scare us. I see the trends around the world as an indication that the Book of Revelations has some relevance to ongoing debate about our world. That book wasn't meant to scare people into becoming Christians, but I believe that prophets of old saw a general trend and wrote that book as a warning about where humanity was heading if it continued down the selfish path of conquest and consumption. This is not wrath of God vengeance we're talking about, but the residue of negative karma being accumulated past the planet's ability to sustain itself. In other words, what I learned when I retook my Biology this past summer, is that when a species overpopulates an eco-system, there seems to be a natural boomerang effect in which disease or a rise in the species' predators or starvation brings down the number of the species in a community. Balance gets restored. That's mother nature's way.

So, to deny global warming and continue with business as usual, where will that lead? Rather than stoning the scientists and politicians and spiritual leaders who are sounding the warning call with greater frequency, perhaps Crichton should reconsider his position. He did admit that he was in favor of alternative energy and fuel efficiency standards in vehicles. This is our chance to change the way business is conducted. We can't afford to wait any longer. The only thing Crichton's views contribute to is giving the current administration a well-known skeptic in which to ignore the warnings of the pantheon of scientists who say otherwise, and being an apologist for the Bush administration's environmental policy is not something Crichton would want to be known for.

Ah, Charlie Rose! I'm glad he finally got to grill Crichton on his global warming position, and his talk show is the reason why I never got into Letterman or Leno. They offer fluff, while Rose conducts the most in depth conversations on television. Perhaps, he will invite Gore to debate Crichton on the most important issue facing our planet today. Until then, Crichton's "Next" is next on my novel reading list.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Not Ready to Make Nice

Seeing the Dixie Chicks win 5 Grammys...including the top honors of Record, Song, and Album of the Year is vindication for what they went through in 2003. I was glad that they weren't ready to make nice, because I'm not either. The rightwing conservatives who believe that Americans should shut up and let the president do whatever he wants don't get it. After all, during the Clinton years, Republicans tried their darndest to keep him from pursuing his agenda. They were even against the war in Kosovo (as was I) and saw nothing wrong with questioning the president's motives for going to war (it did come during the impeachment trial, after all). Yet, all their principles were tossed aside when Bush became president. By their new rules, it was considered TREASON to question Bush's motives for war. And scaredy-cat Democrats went along with it like they had amnesia about what the Republicans did during the Clinton years.

So, on the eve of war, all the Dixie Chicks said in concert in England..."Just to let you know, I'm ashamed that Bush is from Texas" or something like that. Nothing controversial about it. If some Country singer had said in 1998 that they were ashamed that Clinton was president, it wouldn't have bothered me (and I voted for him twice and served as an Intern in his administration...post-Monica), because people's opinions don't offend me much. I much prefer honesty than deceit...so I like to know where people stand. Besides that, Clinton did shame the country with his indiscreet affair. But with Bush, it's like no one was allowed to have an opinion against him on the eve of war. So, for a few years, we had to endure what seems like a generational amnesia since President John Adams "Alien and Sedition Acts"...another round of McCarthyism that questions people's loyalty to the country just because they disagree with the president. I expect to find this in Nazi Germany, the Communist-era Soviet Union, apartheid South Africa, and any number of autocratic regimes like Saddam's in Iraq, the mullahs in Iran, and the Saudi Royal family. None of them like dissent, that's what makes America great and different from those countries. But in Bush's America, dissent was equated with treason.

But here we are in 2007. The Dixie Chicks are vindicated. And next is Al Gore, whose documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" will most likely win the Oscar for best documentary feature in a week. This coming after the 2003 Academy Awards in which Michael Moore was booed off the Oscar stage after his win for "Bowling for Columbine" in which he dared to speak the truth that "we live in fictional times, when fictional elections lead to fictional presidents who wage fictional war..." Now, Hollywood is coming out of the closet and boldly awarding the visionaries who weren't afraid to speak out against the war in 2003, when it was considered treasonous to do so. Not only will "An Inconvenient Truth" win the Oscar, but Gore stands an excellent chance of being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize this fall for his work on educating the world on global warming. The reason his chance is excellent is because the world has seen the disaster that is Bush and while we can't go back to November 2000 to change the outcome, the world can vindicate Gore another way and it would be a huge slap in Bush's face.

So...am I ready to make nice?

HELL NO! The right was wrong about the war in Iraq and events now prove it. It does give me great pleasure to see Republicans scrambling away from the president's Iraq disaster like rats on the Titanic. It's amazing what personal ambition will do when the truth comes out! And poor Bush. Because he ran to the right after stealing the election in 2000, and made enemies of liberals, his support is limited to the very small core of evangelical Christians who would drink whatever Kool-Aid he gives them, even one that leads to their death because they invested too much in his presidency that they can't back out now. They have no other option than to go down with him. And it didn't have to be this way. If Bush had been "the uniter, not a divider" as he promised in 1999-2000, if he had been more conciliatory in his controversial inauguration, if he had made efforts to reach across the aisle in 2001, if he would not have said "you're either with us or against us", if he would not have made support of his war in Iraq as a test of patriotism...on any number of things, had he done things differently, I might have some smidgen of sympathy for him. But because he used cynicism and deceit to govern, pandered to the worst instincts of the rightwing, listened too much to Rove, Cheney, and Rumsfeld, and made too many lines in the sand...I am one person who is glad to see his presidency fail and to see his haggard face on the TV screen, an indication that he hasn't been sleeping too well these past few weeks. If I met him in person, I would laugh in his face. He wanted to be president in the worst way imaginable, cheated to get into office. Lied again and again on issue after issue from the environment to education, to 9/11 and to war. I'm under no obligation to support him. And I'm glad to see the country finally awaken to his fiasco. In less than two years, we will finally get to flush the toxic Texan back to his cess pool of cynicism, where he will live out his days in obscurity and with the notorious distinction of being the worst president in our nation's history. May he take that shame to his grave.

And to the Dixie Chicks, I would like to add..."I'm ashamed that Bush is an American." He has tarnished our country in a way that will make it harder for the next president (whether Republican or Democrat) to repair the damage. But we can rest assured, this Bush disaster means that Jeb doesn't have a chance in hell of becoming president. The Bush brand is broken, and may it ever remain so. Long live American democracy!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Why My Heroes Dissent

I've been paying attention to the trial of 1st LT Ehren Watada in Fort Lewis WA because I believe the outcome has huge relevance to the meaning of the war in Iraq. Here is a Bush supporter who joined the Army in response to the 9/11 attacks. He believed the President about Iraq having WMDs. However, as he learned more about the rationale for the war and all the lies that led up to the war, he had a crisis of conscience. That doesn't make him a peacenik dove, after all, he still requested to be assigned to Afghanistan, which he considers a just war. He only refused to go with his unit to Iraq because he considers it an illegal war. Now, the U.S. Army wants to make an example of him. Yet, the trial apparently didn't go well, as the judge declared a mistrial.

What's most interesting is that rightwingers always claim one can't "pick and choose"...yet in the military, there is an obligation to disobey an unjust command. It just so happens that when a person of conscience decides to use that right, they are told that they can't. But look what happened at Abu Ghraib in 2004. Did those enlisted men and women know to do those torture and humiliation techniques on the Iraqi prisoners? Or were they directed to do so from the top down? Who got punished and who got away without punishment? That's right...the enlisted men and women who were ORDERED to torture and humiliate the prisoners were punished while their superior officers were allowed to walk away without punishment. That's always the case in the military. It's a double-edged trap. If you refuse to obey an illegal order, you risk court martial for disobedience; but if you obey and the events turn out for the worse (say, photos making its way to the Internet to be broadcasted all over the world), then you have just set yourself up for a court martial. Either way, you're going to jail while someone higher up will be promoted and join the other brass in the Pentagon.

We should support dissenters, because they are the conscience of the country, of our world. Where would we be without the Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa, Aung San Suu Kyi, or Nelson Mandela of the world? And when all is said and done, who does history favor? The war mongering Hitlers or the peace loving Gandhis? You decide!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Candle in the Hurricane

I shouldn't, but I can't help myself. I was actually surprised when both ABC's World News Tonight and the CBS Evening News (with the always quirky cute Katie Couric) featured a segment on Anna Nicole Smith's death on Thursday. I asked myself, "why is this national news?" Especially since I knew that "tabloid news" shows such as "Entertainment Tonight" and "Extra" would spend their whole 22 minute segments recounting every last detail of this infamously famous starlet's tragic life.

I remember way back in 1994 when I first heard of her. I was in the Navy, working at the dismally depressing Palau Community Center with another Navy guy I didn't like so much. He and I were complete opposites. He, the Southern redneck, beer-swelling, NASCAR-watching, gun-toting, failed-marriage-because-of-adultery, conservative sailor, and me the multi-national, liberal, latte-drinking, intelligent woman-seeking, Midwestern, spiritual guy who got along better with officers than enlisteds...anyhow, what a clash. The only thing that made my day was another sailor's wife who loved to give Tarot readings and hang out and talk. She considered herself "voluptuous" (did I even spell that right?). I never heard that term before. Both she and my redneck co-worker had asked if I thought Anna Nicole Smith was beautiful. I didn't know who she was at the time. But they said that her body was "voluptuous". So began my education in this notorious Playmate who became better known when she married that billionaire Texas oil tycoon. I'm not saying she's a gold digger...just that she won't date no broke...uh, bigger! She claimed true love, as she sat on his lap while he had to inhale more deeply into his oxygen tank, lest he have a heart attack. She played the part of the grieving widow with all the acting skills of a Pamela Anderson. But, she never came clean about her motives for marrying a super rich guy awaiting death...and the media always winked at the audience when reporting on her confessions of true love. It was rather disgusting.

But, she wanted to be like Marilyn Monroe...to the very end. Again, my question to the corporate media...why devote the 5 minutes of your "world news" show to this wannabe starlet who couldn't act to save her own life, who's claim to fame is as the most well known case of gold digging in history. There are other stories out there...like the Scooter Libby Trial (if the glove doesn't fit, is the grand jury gonna acquit?), like Bush's increasing desire to wage war against Iran without the U.S. Senate's approval (in direct violation of the Constitution, which he swore to defend and uphold). Let's get the real news for once. I hope this episode proves that the media isn't liberal. It's corporate. They know what sells, what gains viewers...after all, Anna Nicole Smith made many tabloids a huge amount of money in the past decade. And what did her life amount to? Unfortunately, there will always be young girls who will wish to live the kind of life she led...living in luxurious style while not having to really work for it, being famous not because of any talent, but as a sort of buffoon that people love to talk about. Deep down, inside, there was a spiritual being in that voluptuous body of hers. I hope now, she will find out the true meaning of life...that it was never about luxurious living, it was about what you contribute to the spiritual consciousness of this planet. Unfortunately, she did very little of that, and that's the tragedy of it all.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

What Community Means To Me

This is from a testimony I shared at the Vancouver Community of Christ congregation in Vancouver, British Columbia on 28 January 2007 as part of the Young Adults of the Puget Sound worship service on the theme of "Many Voices, One Community."

I have a confession to make ...I attended Brigham Young University instead of Graceland College. Part of my reason was because tuition was a lot cheaper. It just goes to show that I can be bought for thirty pieces of silver.

When I was at BYU, I didn't volunteer information that I belonged to the RLDS church because I wanted to know what Mormons really thought about our church and I received quite an education that way.

One professor, I remember, explained the differences between Shia and Sunni Islam to our class by comparing the differences between the LDS and RLDS churches. I didn't agree with her comparison, so after class, I told her: "Actually, the better comparison between our two churches would be like the USA and Canada. The LDS Church is a lot wealthier and has more people, while ours is less conservative and the people are a lot nicer."

When I told fellow students of my church membership, the question was always, "Why BYU?" I asked myself that same question every day that I attended. The honest answer was that when I had prayed about where to attend college, the answer came back unmistakeably BYU. It was not even on my radar screen. Whenever I told that to Mormons, they would get excited and saw that as a way to convert me to their church. They tried to convince me that God had sent me to BYU to become a Mormon, and to that, I would say, "if God really wanted me to become a Mormon, He would not have sent me to BYU."

At BYU, I learned a lot about their beliefs and my faith was challenged, but it was a necessary experience for me overall. In my last semester, I was on the intern program in Washington, D.C., the only non-Mormon on the program of about 30 students. We lived in the same apartment complex, so we hung out in the evenings and weekends. We debated politics and theology and some of them couldn't understand why anyone would want to be a member of the RLDS Church. One girl in particular always asked me what it was about the RLDS Church that kept me loyal, and it was hard for me to answer.

One Sunday, I took her (Janell Cerva) and one of my roommates (Matt Baker) to church with me at the Washington D.C. congregation on Massachusetts Avenue. During the service, by serendipitous luck, the congregation sang one of my favourite songs: "Pass It On." To my amazement, my Mormon friends had never heard it before. Neither had they heard my other favourite, which we'll sing at the end of this service: "We Are One in the Spirit." I was actually surprised by this.

Last year, I attended the Young Adult retreat at Samish Island and met for the first time Erik, Sean, Aaron, Shannon, and others. When we sang songs from memory, including the two I had just mentioned, it finally hit me what it was about this church community. No matter what congregation I attend, I'm almost guaranteed to meet someone who either knows someone I know, or we had met before.

I feel connected to church members through our common knowledge of songs and our experiences at reunions, retreats, and World Conference. I love the smallness of our church and I've never found the same kind of connection with others outside of this community. To me, that's what community means. As for what I mean to the community, I would hope that people would find value in my experience at BYU. What I most admire about Mormons is their ability to keep young single adults active in their church and it is something I would like to help foster within our own community, because we have something unique to offer the world.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

O Vancouver!

Last weekend, I went on a short vacation to the city of my dreams, a city I've dreamed about since my first visit in 1999...Vancouver BC. It was a belated 35th birthday gift to myself and to attend a gathering of my fellow young adult church members of the Pacific Northwest. I went up early to take in the city, and I stayed in a hostel on the always happening Granville Street downtown.

Staying in hostels is always an interesting experience. Lots of young people, particularly foreign travelers. One night, as I sat in the kitchen area writing, a group of Brits and Aussies were having a interesting conversation that I was eavesdropping on. Besides their agreement in thinking the American accent is rather flat sounding (I was always curious how our accent sounds to a person who grew up in England or Australia, where they speak with the coolest accent), I did learn a lot about the global economic structure and it's not a good sign! Apparently, it's not unique to America that we have an invasion of Mexicans taking the low wage jobs that native born Americans don't want to do. In England, it's the Eastern Europeans filling those kind of jobs, and in Australia, it's the Vietnamese and Indonesians. The English person was telling the Aussies that the government encouraged the native born English population to attend college, and many of them did...BUT didn't count on the lack of jobs available for the large number of college graduates in comparison to the low wage jobs that exist in the services sector that no one wants (because the pay is low, the work menial). It seems to be a trend in all the developed world nations. What to be done with this disturbing trend?

When I was in college, I was partly interested in economics. I say "partly interested" because I had questions about our nation and world's economic scheme and something didn't seem to add up for me. I had many questions when I enrolled in the required Econ 110 course. Questions never answered, as the course was little more than an indoctrination course in how great capitalism is. I wanted to know the arguments against capitalism, especially the Karl Marx view, which I believe is valid criticisms, but agreeing with his critiques doesn't make me a Marxist or a Communist. However, the one thing I could never understand about our economy is the constant need for laborers to do the work no one wants to do. There are a lot more of those jobs than the high paying "white collar jobs" that everyone wants. My biggest concern about our global economic scheme (and believe me, "scheme" is the right word to use, because our global economy does NOT have to be set up the way it currently is) is that the wealthy members of society drive up cost of living for everyone, so it's hard to live on the income paid in the low wage service sector. It presents a huge problem for native born populations, who want to maintain a lifestyle they are accustomed to (I'm talking about the average middle class lifestyle, not the obscene affluent one people crave). The only people who don't mind the low wage are those from the developing world, where the cost of living is a lot less and so are the wages. This economic disparity between wealthy nations and developing nations creates an ideal situation for global capitalists, who have an endless supply of people wanting better paying jobs that native born populations can't afford to sustain their lifestyles on. So, what to do with this growing global crisis?

The obvious answer is to simplify one's lifestyle. However, with the costs of homes skyrocketing all over America, it often takes dual income households to afford a home, especially in areas of the country people most want to live in. Is that fair? In the developing world where many live on less than $2 a day, an annual income of $30,000 will guarantee that you can live like a king, but in the developed world, depending on how many children you have and where you live, $30,000 is borderline poverty. Something isn't right about the way our global economic system is set up and it seems that many people are starting to wake up to the serious crisis this income disparity between wealthy nations and developing world nations is causing on our jobs, livelihoods, and overall standard of living.