"Then in May 1942, just before the United States’ military fortunes in the Pacific improved, in the midst of the gloom and the bargains and at the point of maximum bearishness, the U.S. stock market made a bottom for the ages."
– Money manager Barton Biggs
SAN MARTIN, ARGENTINA – "According to the TSA, travel volume through the nation’s airports declined from 2.3 million on March 1 to just 180,000 on Sunday. Business travelers, vacationers, commuters – all fell by more than 90% as the U.S. economy moved to a war footing. All across the country, people are staying at home. Business is collapsing. In Maryland, for example, staying at home is no longer a recommendation; it’s the law!
And now, the St. Louis Fed says unemployment could reach Great Depression levels. CNBC: "Millions of Americans already have lost their jobs amid the coronavirus and the worst of the damage is yet to come, according to a Federal Reserve estimate. Economists at the Fed’s St. Louis district project total employment reductions of 47 million, which would translate to a 32.1% unemployment rate, according to a recent analysis of how bad things could get."
Gods of War: In WWII, 1942, the gods of war switched sides. Until then, the Axis powers had the upper hand. Then, in the Pacific, two battles – Coral Sea and Midway – put the Japanese Navy in its place. And in the Soviet Union, the Red Army forces encircled the German 6th Army at Stalingrad. It was just a matter of time until they finished them off.
And as Barton Biggs – who cofounded one of the first hedge funds – noted above, 1942 gave investors a great stock market buying opportunity. The Dow dropped below 100, which proved to be the best entry point ever. Is this another great buying opportunity?
We doubt it. The feds can juice the markets with fake money. But they can’t make a real depression go away. Fake money produces fake wealth, not real wealth. And this time, the feds are making war against an enemy they can’t beat: capitalism itself. The gods are on the other side. But fake wealth is good enough for investors! Fake dollars? Bring ‘em on… Fake money and federal central control may destroy the U.S. economy, but they can still boost stock prices.
Quarantined in the Valley: In the meantime, we are locked down here, 5,000 miles from home. But like a couple shipwrecked on a South Sea island, we are enjoying local fish and exploring the island. And, what luck, several cases of our wine washed up… and a grand piano, too! We still can’t drive across the river, but a drop in the water level made it possible to cross on horseback.
Crossing on horseback.
We rode up to the little village that sits on the edge of the farm. There are about six houses in the dusty village… a church… and our farm buildings – where we keep tractors, harvesters, disks, rakes, and so forth.
Riding up, in the distance, we saw familiar faces. There was Sergio, who keeps the farms supplied with parts and fuel. Monzon was there, too. He’s a builder who is raising the roof of our storage shed so we can get our harvester under cover. And there, too, was Ramon from next door (about half an hour on horseback up the river).
Larger Than Life: Ramon is a larger-than-life character in the valley. He’s been here all his life. He knows everyone. And everyone’s business. Dressed in wide gaucho pants, suede boots, and a broad cowboy hat, he rides a Peruvian Paso Fino horse. He came out to greet us as we rode up the road. “Buenas tardes, cómo anda?” We have a hard time understanding Ramon. He speaks with a very local accent, with colorful expressions that often leave people from the city puzzled.
Ramon insisted that we join him on a tour of the property before going back to the village. The farm lies on both sides of the river. On the far side, where our house is located, we have small corrals for cattle and horses. Otherwise, all the land is planted in alfalfa. On this side, the property goes over to the main (dirt) road that runs from the tip of Patagonia in the South all the way to the Bolivian border, Route 40.
It was on this road that Che Guevara supposedly rode his motorcycle – “El Poderoso” – and wrote his Motorcycle Diaries. Near the road, the local people grow onions, pimiento, tomatoes, corn, squash, watermelons, and other kitchen crops. The onions, especially, are profitable for us all. The locals do the hand work. We prepare the earth with our tractors, pick up the bags of onions, arrange for sales, and handle the paperwork. We share the revenue.
We rode along, inspecting the canals, checking the quality of the crops, talking about where we were going to rotate out of onions and into oats or alfalfa. Ramon has it all figured out. And he has a plan for everything. Down along the river, the ground is too salty and too prone to flooding for normal crops. But there we will plant festuca, which we presume to be what we call “fescue” in America.
One Disaster After Another: Finally, rejoining the others, the conversation turned in a familiar direction. “Can you believe what is going on?” Sergio began. “It is like everyone has gone crazy. We have no cases of the virus here in the valley. But I still had to go through six roadblocks just to get here. Each time they checked my paperwork. And we’re not even allowed to go into Molinos to buy fuel.”
“Crazy?” Ramon rolled his head backward and roared. “I’ve been living with craziness all my life. One disaster after another.” “You’re lucky,” Ramon continued, pointing in our direction. “Here in Argentina, we’re so used to craziness that we couldn’t live without it. It’s the craziness that keeps us sane. But you don’t have that problem in America…”
“I’m not so sure,” was the best answer we could make, trying to follow Ramon’s train of thought. Ramon recalled the inflation of the ’80s. “I remember… you’d go out for a beer and a cigarette… and while you were sitting at the bar, the price of the beer would double.” Ramon roared again.
Business in Argentina: We’ve known Ramon for at least 12 years. It was from him that we bought our ranch, Gualfin. The property settlement was our introduction to doing business in Argentina – that is, in a corrupt, inflation-ridden economy.
There were papers to sign in a notary’s office, just as there is in North America. But there was also a discussion about how the money was to be paid. “How much in ‘white’ and how much in ‘black?’” Typically, some money passes “under the table” to help the seller avoid taxes. But the buyer also needs to explain where he got the money. In that case, another color is introduced: blue.
There’s money that comes into Argentina and is traded for pesos through a bank. And there’s money that comes in unofficially and is traded on the black market. Nobody, then or now, wants to trade dollars for Argentine pesos at the official rate. So both buyer and seller are encouraged to move transactions “off the books.” It seemed a bit crazy to us, but there was a logic to it.
Monstrous Bill: The settlement took place in Buenos Aires. Ramon, coming down from the valley, was out of place. Crossing the street through the anarchic traffic was a challenge. Dressed in his gaucho outfit, Ramon would step out on the street… and almost defy the drivers to run into him. “Look at him,” a big-city lawyer remarked. “He thinks he’s back in the province, walking through a herd of cattle.” But Ramon knows his way around the valley better than anyone. And he knows “crazy” as well as anybody. “But you know something… It’s never quite as crazy as you think. There’s always someone with his hand in the cookie jar.”
Back in the U.S., so many hands reached for the cookies last week, it took 800 pages of dense copy in the CARE Act to list them all. Congress was giving away the equivalent of 10% of GDP, doubling federal spending. Who didn’t want a hand in that? And, by the way, Congress has no money of its own. Every penny will have to be taken away from the very people they claim to be rescuing. And perhaps the most appalling thing was that Congress passed this monstrous bill on a voice vote.
Only one member of Congress objected… and he was widely ridiculed, as though he was preventing an ambulance from getting to the scene of an accident. And now, those who missed out are already getting ready for the next go-round. Bloomberg: "Industries That Missed Out on Stimulus Shoot for the Next One." Crazy? Not exactly. Larceny is more like it."
“An asterism is just a recognized pattern of stars that is not one the 88 official constellations. For example, one of the most famous (and largest) asterisms is the Big Dipper within the constellation Ursa Major. But this pretty chain of stars, visible with binoculars towards the long-necked constellation of Camelopardalis, is also a recognized asterism.
Click image for larger size.
Known as Kemble's Cascade, it contains about 20 stars nearly in a row, stretching over five times the width of a full moon. Tumbling from the upper right to lower left in the picture, Kemble's Cascade was made popular by astronomy enthusiast Lucian Kemble. The bright object at the lower left is the relatively compact open cluster of stars, NGC 1502.”
"For several days I'd passed this poor bedraggled creature on the sidewalk. I couldn't help but think of that essay in Lewis Thomas' "The Lives of a Cell" called "Death In the Open." How rare it is, he writes, to see a dead wild animal. He mentions squirrels in particular. They teem in his backyard, he says, all year long, but he has never seen, anywhere, a dead squirrel.
It is always a queer shock, part a sudden upwelling of grief, part unaccountable amazement. It is simply astounding to see a dead animal on the highway. The outrage is more than the just the location. It is the impropriety of such visible death, anywhere. You do not expect to see dead animals in the open. It is the nature of animals to die alone, off somewhere, hidden. It is wrong to see them lying out on the highway, it is wrong to see them anywhere.
Yet here he was, asleep in his own shadow, a reminder - as if any were necessary - that all things die. Everything that comes alive, writes Thomas, seems to be in trade for something that dies. There might be some comfort, he says, in recognizing that "we all go down together, in the best of company."
What is life? The great 19th-century French physiologist Claude Bernard famously (and paradoxically) said "Life is death." He seems to have meant more or less what Thomas said, that everything alive is in trade for something that dies. An even earlier French physiologist, Marie Francois Xavier Bichat, sometimes called the father of modern pathology and histology, gave it a different spin: "Life is the totality of the death-resisting functions."
Two centuries have passed since Bichat's death at age thirty-one, and we are not a lot closer to understanding what life is. The mechanics of the "death-resisting functions" have been marvelously explicated, but the mystery remains. The biologist Lynn Margulis, with her son Dorian Sagan, wrote a big, beautiful book called "What Is Life?" Each chapter ends with the poser "So what is life?", recapitulating the chapter. We get some lovely science, and some lovely writing, but the enigma remains, unless their "Life is evolutionary exuberance" satisfies.
Whatever life is, we recognize it most forcefully in its absence, as here on the sidewalk. And in its absence, we rejoice that, for the moment at least, our own bodies swell with the exuberance that animates the Earth."
"The Opening of Eyes" "That day I saw beneath dark clouds The passing light over the water, And I heard the voice of the world speak out. I knew then as I have before, Life is no passing memory of what has been, Nor the remaining pages of a great book Waiting to be read. It is the opening of eyes long closed. It is the vision of far off things, Seen for the silence they hold. It is the heart after years of secret conversing Speaking out loud in the clear air. It is Moses in the desert fallen to his knees Before the lit bush. It is the man throwing away his shoes As if to enter heaven and finding himself astonished, Opened at last, Fallen in love With Solid Ground." ~ David Whyte,
"In the mechanisms we have been discussing, the individual overcomes the feeling of insignificance in comparison with the overwhelming power of the world outside himself either by renouncing his individual integrity, or by destroying others so that the world ceases to be threatening. Other mechanisms of escape are the withdrawal from the world so completely that it loses its threat (the picture we find in certain psychotic states), and the inflation of oneself psychologically to such an extent that the world outside becomes small in comparison. Although these mechanisms of escape are important for individual psychology, they are only of minor relevance culturally. I shall not, therefore, discuss them further here, but instead will turn to another mechanism of escape which is of the greatest social significance.
This particular mechanism is the solution that the majority of normal individuals find in modern society. To put it briefly, the individual ceases to be himself; he adopts entirely the kind of personality offered to him by cultural patterns; and he therefore becomes exactly as all others are and as they expect him to be. The discrepancy between "I" and the world disappears and with it the conscious fear of aloneness and powerlessness. This mechanism can be compared with the protective coloring some animals assume. They look so similar to their surroundings that they are hardly distinguishable from them. The person who gives up his individual self and becomes an automaton, identical with millions of other automatons around him, need not feel alone and anxious any more. But the price he pays, however, is high; it is the loss of his self."
- Erich Fromm, "The Fear of Freedom"
Freely download "The Fear of Freedom", by Erich Fromm, here:
"In Part One of this article I detailed the criminal enterprise that constitutes the leadership of this country. The facts are clear. We’ve been screwed over by those who were supposed to represent us. Now it is time to look in the mirror and decide whether we will continue to bow down before our keepers or step up and be accounted for in this coming fight.
Corporate executives who recklessly loaded their companies with debt, while utilizing the proceeds to buy back their own stock, in order to boost their stock price and outrageous compensation packages, left their companies vulnerable to an entirely predictable downturn. After frittering trillions away on their overvalued stock, they now demand bailouts from the taxpayer, and their spineless captured congress lapdogs have obeyed their corporate masters. The 96 – 0 vote in the Senate is truly a disgusting example of the corporate fascist One Party system that reigns in the swamp. Corporate socialism is alive and well.
As this incomprehensible national shutdown extends into April, tens of thousands of small businesses will be forced to close their doors for good. Local restaurants, hair salons, delis, hardware stores, and thousands of other small businesses will be involuntarily shuttered for good.
The national chains will collect their government largess, produce PR campaigns to pat themselves on the back, and abscond with the profits of the now deceased small businesses. The corporate fascists will become ever more powerful. Why are we letting this happen? As V described in his speech to London, there were a myriad of reasons, but we need to look in the mirror to find the true culprit.
“Because while the truncheon may be used in lieu of conversation, words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth. And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn’t there? Cruelty and injustice, intolerance and oppression. And where once you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission.
How did this happen? Who’s to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you’re looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror. I know why you did it. I know you were afraid. Who wouldn’t be? War, terror, disease. There were a myriad of problems which conspired to corrupt your reason and rob you of your common sense.”
- Alan Moore, "V for Vendetta"
War, terror and now disease. Sound familiar? As we remain trapped in our homes due to this invisible phantom menace and the mainstream media hysterically reports the running totals, interviewing self-proclaimed medical experts, and trying to boost ratings through creating fear and panic, the economy continues to implode, heading for the largest decrease in GDP in history, with unemployment headed to 20%. All perspective and context have been abandoned.
On an average day in America 8,000 people die, or 2.9 million per year. When that perspective is placed in context next to the 2,400 deaths in the month of March from the coronavirus, you have to question the necessity of shutting down the entire country. Now the panic and fear will be used as an excuse to further take away more liberties and freedoms. We’ve been playing their game and following their rules, and they remain in control of the game.
“They say that life’s a game, and then they take the board away.”
- Alan Moore, "V for Vendetta"
I can’t help but ponder the parallels and messages from the film version of "V for Vendetta" versus what is happening now during the most perilous episode of this ongoing Fourth Turning. The 2005 film version was adapted from Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s graphic novel "V for Vendetta", published between 1982 and 1985. Moore wrote it at the outset of the Third Turning Unraveling period, with a fascist versus anarchist theme.
The filmmakers had previously created the Matrix series and chose to change the plot and theme to match the post 9/11 mood, reflecting a more Fourth Turning view of our dystopian world. Moore disassociated himself from the film version. The story is set in a dystopian London in 2032. The country is ruled by a totalitarian fascist party where the people are surveilled, subjugated and oppressed by their government. We aren’t there yet, but unless we come to our senses quickly, that will be our fate.
I find it fascinating the plot of the movie centers around a secret bio-weapons program at Larkhill utilized by power hungry fascists (Sutler) to achieve their goal of convincing the masses to vote for their own enslavement. They released the virus into St. Mary’s school, the London tube and a water treatment plant, ultimately killing 100,000, blaming phantom terrorists, spreading panic and fear, and scaring the public into elevating Sutler to High Chancellor.
As a cherry on top, the conspirators reaped vast amounts of wealth by owning the company that developed the “cure” to the virus. It just so happens there is a bio-weapons lab in Wuhan. Canadian and Harvard scientists were arrested for doing something illegal with viruses. Only a mad conspiracy theorist would wonder whether this Chinese virus was released purposefully to achieve the goal of globalists for the ultimate power grab. Authoritarians only seek one thing.
“The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness; only power, pure power. The object of power is power.”
– George Orwell, "1984"
“Authority allows two roles: the torturer and the tortured. Twists people into joyless mannequins that fear and hate, while culture plunges into the abyss.”
- Alan Moore, "V for Vendetta"
The Party has created the fear and panic. The Party has shutdown the world economy. The Party has destroyed your 401ks, again. The Party is using propaganda techniques and scare tactics to bully you into subservience and conformity. The Party is using Orwellian doublespeak to mislead the masses. The Party will use all means to silence dissent. The Party will utilize their hold on the police forces and military to enforce their dictatorial decrees.
The Party is attempting to turn us against each other so we don’t turn on them. The truth is they are losing control. This debt drenched Ponzi financial system is collapsing and they have no way to escape the consequences of their crimes. The Party is in a weakened position and is lashing out in order to retain power. I feel like Finch in the scene which triggers the people to throw off their chains and fight back.
“I felt like I could see everything that happened, and everything that is going to happen. It was like a perfect pattern, laid out in front of me. And I realized we’re all part of it, and all trapped by it.”
– Finch, "V for Vendetta"
Here’s what I see happening now and what could happen if we knuckle under to the authoritarians:
• The global economy will sink into a Depression with 2nd quarter GDP at -20% and unemployment rising to 20%.
• Despite violent upswings, the stock market will drop another 30% in the next few months.
• The annual deficit will top $4 trillion as the $2.2 trillion of pork hits the spending side and tax revenue evaporates due to the country being closed for business.
• The unaccountable Fed will double its balance sheet to $9 trillion (up from $800 billion in 2008) as they pump the fiat directly into the veins of the Wall Street addicts.
• The number of cases and deaths will continue to rise, but be no worse than the Swine flu numbers, and far less than the Spanish flu figures.
• Left wing authoritarian governors will declare even more draconian lockdowns of their citizens, enforced by their police forces and national guard troops.
• The initial fear and panic buying at grocery stores has subsided, but once the media begins to tout supply chain disruptions, a renewed panic will cause chaos across the country.
• Police will monitor the license plates of those from infected areas, demanding the driver’s papers and forcing them to return to their states.
• Silicon Valley Big Brother will report the movements of all citizens to the government through cell phone tracking of individuals.
• Citizens will be encouraged by Big Brother to monitor the actions of their neighbors and report them to the authorities if they dare to disregard an order from their government keepers.
• The media will continue to hype and create panic by exaggerating every aspect of this health crisis and cheer on every edict handed by government authorities.
• As the lockdown nears a month, the natives will grow increasingly restless, as their $1,200 evaporates and they begin to question the Party’s narrative.
• The vile politicians in D.C. will roll out another stimulus scheme, further indebting future generations in a pathetic attempt to prop up this carcass of a country.
• Rioting and looting in the urban areas will lead to martial law being declared by Trump and the governors.
• The legitimate scapegoating of China for creating this crisis will lead to increased tensions, as domestic discontent in both countries creates an atmosphere where military escapades are utilized to distract the masses, using patriotism as a rallying cry by the failing leaders.
• The “authorities” will declare all coin and currency as unsafe due to the virus and force the digitalization of the entire country.
• Gold will be outlawed once again, as its price rise will reveal the currency debasement and inflation created by the Fed’s monetary machinations.
• Either at the convention or just before, Biden will “voluntarily” step aside due to his progressing Alzheimer’s to allow the media’s hero governor of NY to assume the nomination of the Democrat party.
• With the economy in depression and the stock market down 50%, Trump would lose the presidency to Cuomo and the Democrats would take full control of Congress.
• The left-wing fascist party would then begin implementing a government-controlled health care regime where all Americans will need to be microchipped for our own good.
• Miraculously, a vaccine to eliminate the threat of coronavirus will be discovered and all Americans will be forced to receive it under threat of arrest. Shockingly, key congressmen will have invested heavily in the company that developed the cure.
• The lunatic fringe will achieve their aim of a green new deal, passing legislation which will put the final nail in the coffin of a once great republic. The economy will spiral downward and the stock market will crash to levels not seen since the mid- 1990s.
• As the global depression deepens, the one world government globalists will again utilize the fear and panic of the masses to try and install a global solution by offering financial relief (debt jubilee) in return for relinquishing our rights, liberties and freedom to a world run by billionaire oligarchs.
• The authoritarians will pass legislation banning guns and demanding citizens to hand over their firearms under threat of imprisonment. The instantaneous blowback will rock the world.
This is where some hope enters the picture. We know every Fourth Turning results in the destruction of the existing social order. The toxic brew of debt, global disorder and civic decay are creating a perfect storm from which we cannot escape. We know globalists will attempt to take advantage of the pain, suffering and fear of the masses to further entrench themselves as our masters. This is where their hubris and arrogance will be their downfall. The dreadful course we are on is not set in stone. It is not certain, offering us one last opportunity.
“There’s no certainty – only opportunity.”
– Alan Moore, "V for Vendetta"
There is a seething anger building in this country among the well-armed deplorables in flyover country and other rural communities across America. We are tired of being screwed over by the corrupt establishment and their lackeys. Government leadership has proven to be inept, immoral, idiotic, corrupt and incapable of doing the right thing. The financial leadership of this country has met Nassim Taleb’s description of IYI (intellectual yet idiot) perfectly.
In addition, the blatant corruption of these sleazy shysters has destroyed any trust in financial arrangements. And lastly, while the infrastructure of the country rots and decays, our political leaders spend $1 trillion per year policing the world and bombing 3rd world oil rich countries into submission. Trust in the system and leadership is dissipating rapidly.
The masses have not angrily voiced their displeasure with their government for decades, as they have been distracted by bread and circuses. The end of this empire is nearer than one might think, but its epitaph has already been written. Financial collapse is baked in the cake. The teetering edifice which took so long to build will be brought down by a snap of history’s fingers.
I’m unsure as to whether Trump is a pawn in this game of the globalists or a willing participant. If he isn’t the one destined to blow this thing sky high, then someone else will need to step into the breach and convince the masses to rise up, throw off their chains, and conquer their fears. We are approaching the climax phase of this Fourth Turning where things will turn nasty. If you haven’t noticed, your world has changed forever over the last few weeks and the future is in our hands. Are you ready to fight for truth, knowledge and a future for our children? The battle between good and evil has just begun.
“The Crisis climax is human history’s equivalent to nature’s raging typhoon, the kind that sucks all surrounding matter into a single swirl of ferocious energy. Anything not lashed down goes flying; anything standing in the way gets flattened. Normally occurring late in the Fourth Turning, the climax gathers energy from an accumulation of unmet needs, unpaid bills, and unresolved problems. It then spends that energy on an upheaval whose direction and dimension were beyond comprehension during the prior Unraveling era.
The climax shakes a society to its roots, transforms its institutions, redirects its purposes, and marks its people (and its generations) for life. The climax can end in triumph, or tragedy, or some combination of both. Whatever the event and whatever the outcome, a society passes through a great gate of history, fundamentally altering the course of civilization.”
- Strauss & Howe, "Fourth Turning"
This scene perfectly captures the essence of Fourth Turnings: “With so much chaos, someone will do something stupid. And when they do, things will turn nasty.”
○ "The more I see of the moneyed classes, the more I understand the guillotine."
- George Bernard Shaw
Perfect storm: "A perfect storm is an event in which a rare combination of circumstances drastically aggravates the event. The term is used by analogy to an unusually severe storm that results from a rare combination of meteorological phenomena." Coronavirus consequences precipitate total global economic collapse...
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"I'll never understand why some people can't just let others live their lives, you know," Danial said. "You don't have to understand. You don't have to agree. Just leave people alone. When I look at the moon and planets and stars, all that narrow-mindedness and hate seem so petty. The universe is such a big place. One hundred thousand light years just from one end of the Milky Way to the other. One hundred. Thousand. Light years. In the time it's taken for light to travel from one end of our galaxy to the other, thousands of generations have passed. It really makes you realize how small we are, doesn't it? How short our time on earth is."
"What can we know? What are we all? Poor silly half-brained things peering
out at the infinite, with the aspirations of angels and the instincts of beasts."
- Arthur Conan Doyle
"These days, many of us tend to think that human nature is inherently competitive and destructive. We hear about “selﬁsh genes,” as if our genetic makeup predetermines that we will be egotistic people and that we will ﬁght with one another. We’re told that our species contains a built-in “killer instinct,” that we are descended from apes who needed to be brutal and ferociously aggressive to survive the hostile conditions of prehistoric times. According to such notions, the natural world is an unrelenting battle for survival, and it is mere wishful thinking to believe that people can live in peace with one another and with their environment for any signiﬁcant length of time. “War,” said Dick Cheney, seeking to justify the invasion of Iraq, “is the natural state of man.”
Cheney and others who think like him believe that the human condition is inherently and inexorably competitive, and that all of human experience is an expression of the Darwinian principle of “survival of the ﬁttest.” If they are correct, then given the existence of nuclear weapons, our species is almost certainly doomed. But Charles Darwin himself would not agree. In fact, in "The Descent of Man," Darwin mentioned the survival of the ﬁttest only twice, and one of those times was to apologize for using what he had come to feel was an unfortunate and misleading phrase. By contrast, he wrote 95 times about love. In his later writings, Darwin repeatedly stressed that the “survival of the ﬁttest” model of natural selection dropped away in importance at the level of human evolution and was replaced by moral sensitivity, education and cooperation.
It’s true that chimpanzees, whose genetics are very similar to our own, have quite a propensity for deceit, violence, theft, infanticide and even cannibalism. But it’s equally true that among chimps, the toughest rivals will reconcile after a ﬁght, stretching out their hands to each other, smiling, kissing and hugging. And besides, there is another primate who is as genetically similar to us as the chimpanzee–the bonobo, an ape species native to the Congo. If, instead of studying chimps for clues to the origins of human behavior, we had been studying bonobos, we would have come to very different conclusions. Instead of the killer-ape model, we would have had the lover-ape model, for these primates show a phenomenal sensitivity to the well-being of others.
“Primatologists,” writes author Marc Barasch in his book, "Field Notes on the Compassionate Life," “are ﬁnding in the bonobos evidence that it is not tooth-and-nail competition, but conciliation, cuddling, and cooperation that may be the central organizing principle of human evolution.” One of the world’s leading experts on primate behavior, Frans de Waal, calls it “survival of the kindest.”
What kind of creature, then, are we? There are those who believe human beings are fundamentally selﬁsh, and there are those who believe we are essentially kindly creatures who need only love to ﬂourish; but I stand in neither camp, or maybe I should say I stand in both camps. It appears to me that we have nearly inﬁnite potential in both directions. Part ego and part divinely inspired, we have both the potential to compete and the potential to cooperate. There are in each of us forces that can produce a Bernard Madoff, and also those that can produce a Martin Luther King. Depending on what we choose to afﬁrm and cultivate within ourselves and our children, we can collectively turn this planet into a hell or a heaven. Whether we like it or not, and whether we accept it or not, our choices make an enormous difference.
In these deeply uncertain times, I believe that the effort to create a web of caring, support, authenticity and trust among your friends and family members, and in your larger community, may be among the most important acts you can undertake. With pandemic raging globally, with the economy and the biosphere deteriorating and potentially collapsing, nothing may be more imperative than overcoming the isolation and disconnectedness that so often pervades contemporary life.
Down through history there have been sages and philosophers who have spoken of the fundamental unity underlying the human condition. They have taught that each of us is truly part of an extended family that includes all people everywhere. But today the human future depends on more than just a few wise people understanding the concept. The quality of life for humanity in the years to come depends on ever-increasing numbers of people incorporating this understanding into their everyday lives. The health and survival of the human species now depends on how deeply we grasp the reality of our interdependence.
Whether we acknowledge it or not, we all have a choice to be either accomplices in the status quo or everyday revolutionaries. We have a choice whether to succumb to the consumer trance, identify our self worth by our net worth, and race by each other in the night — or to build lives of caring, substance and beauty.
In our so very troubled times, hope itself can seem like a romantic fallacy. The news we hear is so filled with horrors and tragedies, so replete with examples of humanity’s failures, that it can seem like a childish fantasy to still root for all that is good in us. But I believe the real news on this planet is love — why it exists, where it came from and where it is going.
This is why, even though I fail at it far more than I succeed, I still try to follow the advice of the author Og Mandino, who wrote: “Treat everyone you meet as if he or she were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster, and do so with no thought of reward. Your life will never be the same.”
"Things are mighty heated these days. Tempers are flaring and minds are closed. Here’s the solution: the wit and wisdom of Will Rogers.
• “The short memory of voters is what keeps our politicians in office.”
• “We’ve got the best politicians that money can buy.”
• “A fool and his money are soon elected.”
Rogers spoke these words during the Great Depression, but they’re just as true today. With 24-hour news channels, our memories are shorter than ever. And in the mass-media age, the politician who can afford the most airtime frequently wins.
• “Things in our country run in spite of government, not by aid of it.”
• “Alexander Hamilton started the U.S. Treasury with nothing. That was the closest our country has ever been to being even.”
• “Be thankful we’re not getting all the government we’re paying for.”
Today, unfortunately, we’re getting more government than we’re paying for. We cover the difference by borrowing billions every year. As the king of the velvet-tipped barb, Rogers never intended to be mean, but to bring us to our senses. One of his favorite subjects was to remind the political class that it worked for us, not the other way around.
• “When Congress makes a joke it’s a law, and when they make a law, it’s a joke.”
• “You can’t hardly find a law school in the country that don’t, through some inherent weakness, turn out a senator or congressman from time to time… if their rating is real low, even a president.”
• “The more you observe politics, the more you’ve got to admit that each party is worse than the other.”
That’s for certain. I used to fault the Democrats for cronyism and reckless spending. But that was before Republicans took over. Rogers’ thinking on American foreign policy really hits home today:
• “Diplomacy is the art of saying ‘Nice doggie’ until you can find a rock.”
• “Diplomats are just as essential to starting a war as soldiers are for finishing it. You take diplomacy out of war, and the thing would fall flat in a week.”
• “Liberty doesn’t work as well in practice as it does in speeches.”
Rogers was born and raised on a farm in Oklahoma. His wit reflected the heart of America - the horse sense, square dealing and honesty that were the bedrock of our success:
• “When a fellow ain’t got much of a mind, it don’t take him long to make it up.”
• “This country is not where it is today on account of any one man. It’s here on account of the real common sense of the Big Normal Majority.”
Franklin Roosevelt, a frequent target of Rogers’ barbs, understood how valuable Rogers’ sensibility was during the years of the Depression: “I doubt there is among us a more useful citizen than the one who holds the secret of banishing gloom, of supplanting desolation and despair with hope and courage. Above all things Will Rogers brought his countrymen back to a sense of proportion.”
A sense of proportion is clearly what we’re lacking right now. We need to get it back quickly. We were attacked in 2001 by people who hold an ideology we’re still having trouble getting our arms around. At first we were united, but now we’re badly divided. Nothing more brightens the day of those who wish us harm than division. Just as bad, we’ve got a rapidly aging population - a Social Security and Medicare train wreck is just over the horizon - and there is no shortage of other woes we must resolve if we expect the American experiment to keep on rolling. But instead of working to resolve our challenges, we snipe and point fingers and make absurd accusations. We forget we’re not Democrats or Republicans, but Americans.
What we need now more than ever is the calm, clear perspective of Will Rogers. He offered some sound advice on how we can get started: “If stupidity got us into this mess, then why can’t it get us out?”
“There is nothing quite so tragic as a young cynic,” Maya Angelou wrote in contemplating courage in the face of evil, “because it means the person has gone from knowing nothing to believing nothing.”
How to prevent that cultural tragedy, which poisons the heart of a just and democratic society, is what Theodore Roosevelt (October 27, 1858–January 6, 1919) examined when he took the podium at the Sorbonne in Paris on April 23 of 1910 to deliver one of the most powerful, rousing, and timelessly insightful speeches ever given, originally titled “Citizenship in a Republic” and later included under the title “Duties of the Citizen” in the 1920 volume "Roosevelt’s Writings" (public library).
A century before Caitlin Moran cautioned that “cynicism scours through a culture like bleach, wiping out millions of small, seedling ideas,” Roosevelt admonishes against “that queer and cheap temptation” to be cynical, and writes: "The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer. There are many men who feel a kind of twister pride in cynicism; there are many who confine themselves to criticism of the way others do what they themselves dare not even attempt. There is no more unhealthy being, no man less worthy of respect, than he who either really holds, or feigns to hold, an attitude of sneering disbelief toward all that is great and lofty, whether in achievement or in that noble effort which, even if it fails, comes to second achievement. A cynical habit of thought and speech, a readiness to criticize work which the critic himself never tries to perform, an intellectual aloofness which will not accept contact with life’s realities - all these are marks, not as the possessor would fain to think, of superiority but of weakness. They mark the men unfit to bear their part painfully in the stern strife of living, who seek, in the affection of contempt for the achievements of others, to hide from others and from themselves in their own weakness. The role is easy; there is none easier, save only the role of the man who sneers alike at both criticism and performance."
With an eye to those lazy critics - the dead weight of society - Roosevelt offers: "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. The man who does nothing cuts the same sordid figure in the pages of history, whether he be a cynic, or fop, or voluptuary. There is little use for the being whose tepid soul knows nothing of great and generous emotion, of the high pride, the stern belief, the lofty enthusiasm, of the men who quell the storm and ride the thunder."