Loading...

Follow The Preppy Trucker - "You thought it wasn'.. on Feedspot

Continue with Google
Continue with Facebook
or

Valid

The weather impacts us all whether we like it or not, but most especially truck drivers. Right now, we’re in the midst of a very cold, snow-filled winter. The roads are dangerous (not to mention the drivers). It hurts when you step outside, and icy-rain and heavy snow make it nearly impossible to get around safely.

Just the other day, I got into my first real skid. When I was a kid, I’d do parking lot donuts like it was nobody’s business. My old BMW 3-series (not-so-aptly named “Gertie”) sure could take me for quite a twirl. At 15-20 mph I could play a game called “slolem” all day long. That was fun.

With a big rig, though, it’s a much different experience. In my case, my truck is my house. It’s where I live. I keep most of my personals in it. My wife’s future depends on it. If I lose my truck, I’m out more money than most people in America save by the time their 40. It’s more than important.

It’s also really big. Often times my truck is loaded to the brim, giving me an extra 40,000 pounds of force pushing me forward—about 15 times the weight of my old beamer. When you get into a skid, it’s not fun.

That skid, it was something else. My truck weaved from one side of the highway and back to the other. The Wyoming wind pushed me to-and-fro and nearly ran me off the highway. I was lucky, a little brake on-and-off got the trailer straight, and I came to a halt on the side of the road without hitting anything or going in the ditch. It was the first time I’d ever been truly scared in a vehicle. I sat on the side of the highway for 15 minutes before going again.

Stories like these, and so many with far worse endings than mine, abound in trucking today. I’ve seen at least five semis in the ditch just in the last 24 hours between Chicago and Philly. Trucks skid. Trailers roll. Drivers die. It’s just not safe.

Why is it so hard to get trucks down the road safely?

First of all, truckers’ choices and driving habits often fail to match road conditions. It’s not uncommon to drive “safely” at 50 mph during a winter storm and get breezed by another truck going 70. Some of us think those guys are insane. We’re probably right, but there are other reasons than madness that propels truckers through storms.

One blog on the topic suggests that drivers should always stop in cases of bad weather—as if it’s their choice. Most of the time, truckers working for profit-hungry companies feel compelled to push through bad weather to keep customers happy and keep the truck rolling. In this way, drivers have little freedom to choose safety over productivity. They’ve got powerful economic forces breathing down their neck, and sometimes their jobs suffer from gaining a reputation for being too safe (a.k.a. slow).

Owner-operators tend to feel it’s part of their duty as professional drivers to overcome the impossible and press on in the fate of inevitable defeat. One main difference between these types and other drivers is that they feel pressed to drive unsafely to keep their businesses profitable. Lost drive time to a storm risks up to several thousand dollars to a driver’s wallet. They can’t just close up shop every time the weather gets dicey.

At least some of them weigh the risk of losing their home against a few thousand dollars in a week. But as I’ve found, most owner-ops don’t have that kind of cash lying around to worry about. A few thousand right now seems like a big deal.

Simply put, truckers aren’t incentivized to be safe during bad weather. They’re actually incentivized to take greater risks.

One would be tempted to think that more closely regulating what conditions truckers drive would be a proper solution, but that’s tricky. Given drivers’ disincentives to drive safely and the relative risk on their wages during down time, it wouldn’t be good practice to increase regulation without concern for the issue of compensation.

In the end, shippers aren’t willing to pay more to get less in cases of bad weather. That doesn’t really comport with the customer service standards our business world currently adheres to. So companies, not holding liability for shipment of goods in most cases, have little incentive to give drivers a break when it comes to timing and service quality. Instead, drivers feel the burden to keep up with demands and the pressure of their carriers.

Thus, it’s clear to me that truckers sit at the bottom of a political and economic food chain. As it stands, truckers have no mechanism to force shippers to compensate them for lost time in cases of bad weather, and they have no mechanism to force carriers to advocate on their behalf. While there are rare exceptions to this, a few good carriers and a few understanding customers (as in specialty goods markets), there’s not much to be done. Truckers get screwed.

Even worse, they die.

So should we keep thinking deeper about this problem? I think so.

The post The Risky Business of Bad Weather Driving appeared first on The Preppy Trucker.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Do truckers have community? Surely, they must.

Simply defined, a community is a group of people that either live in close proximity to each other or share common characteristics. Truckers at least meet the second part of that definition. They all deal with America’s bad roads, bouncing around in their cabs like lipstick in a lady’s purse. They also eat less-than-nutritious foods from truck stops or Wal-Mart. They earn far less on the average than they should. They wonder how and when they’ll be able to get to the bank or the eye doctor. And they rarely enjoy a relaxing beverage-of-a-certain-nature before bedtime. So yes, truckers share some cultural attributes. Indeed, they have a lot in common actually, but that doesn’t mean they experience a rewarding community-oriented life.

“Community” is not a simple concept. Sociologists have long debated various definitions, slightly leaning toward a definition accommodating complex ideological features such as the power-play between urban and rural communities (which basically has to do with determining what factors will lead to the demise of a particular society). For the trucker, the classic distinction between “urban” and “rural” doesn’t even really matter that much.

Tight-knit rural communities are basically irrelevant, since the trucker travels virtually all the time making it difficult for them to maintain consistent, strong relationships with others. And the impenetrable urban environment is so physically tight that most drivers are afraid of even going in at all, let alone profiting from its cultural and social variety. Therefore, a definition that relies too heavily on the esoteric and inevitably damning constructs of modernity is not all that practical here.

If there is a truly useful definition of “community” that could apply to the trucker (and really everyone else as well), it won’t rely on geographic factors or common characteristics. One blog said it really well, “We think about communities based on what they are trying to accomplish.” Thinking of “community” in that way implies that effective communities are comprised of people that, regardless of their locale or character, build strong relationships with each other to achieve shared visions and goals. And in probably most cases, if not all, the main reason for setting up and achieving any shared vision or goal is really about human flourishing. Community is therefore inherently purposive, principally about improving people’s lives.

And that’s the kind of community that truckers don’t have, one that improves their quality of life.

And why is this? If you look beyond many of the daily features that truckers share in common, you’ll notice that consistencies start to crumble. For one, truckers have mistakenly relied on weak, disparate forces to help them solve their problems. What is more, lobbying efforts by organizations like ATA or OOIDA have generally failed to enact meaningful culture change as a matter of politics. Instead of focusing on systemic cultural issues, these organizations have focused primarily on technical issues at the policy level such as electronic logs and hours of service, which definitely impact truckers’ daily lives but are not significant enough to bring about the kind of economic and socio-political change truckers actually need. These organizations are important, but they need re-focused efforts. Good policy helps, but culture change will never come from an edict.

So up to now, broad-based efforts to improve truckers’ lives have not been effective. The disproportionate lack of respect truckers face from outsiders keeps truckers from positively connecting with the rest of society, and the lack of effective community support structures creates a huge barrier to building a purpose-driven collective effort to improve life conditions. As a result, truckers are culturally boxed-in and feel as if they can’t do anything to improve their situation. So they just keep on keeping on, avoiding the bigger conversation altogether.

Many truckers feel like they have literally nothing significant to talk about. So they talk about what’s easy for them to talk about: trucks. If you visit a truck stop diner, you’ll occasionally hear drivers talk amongst themselves. Most often, they talk about their trucks. Trucks, trucks, and more trucks. “My Cummins beats your CAT every day of the week and twice on Sunday!” “Hell it does! Mine’s pumping 650 horsepower!” It’s always about their equipment, and usually in an instructive or boastful manner. Even most trucking blogs concentrate heavily on the topic of equipment. Did I mention trucks? Well, if truckers do venture out into other topics, they usually talk about where they’ve been and how long they waited at the dock. But for the most part, truckers talk trucks. And why? Because it’s basically all they’ve got.

Truckers don’t take Mediterranean Cunard cruises, visit metropolitan art museums, or attend operas. How could they? They work non-stop, and they don’t have easy access to varied cultural experiences even when they do get time off. Many of them do want to be more culturally involved, but they generally don’t have access and they’re generally not socially accepted by those circles. But consider what would happen if truckers did up their cultural game.

They’d become more educated on important topics such as race and religion, understanding “difference” in ways that might lead them to see and treat others better. They’d become more active political participants, engaging more in the nuances of public policy rather than populist ideology. They’d have more substantive, meaningful (and generally more considerate) conversations with each other. But truckers are bred as simple and unsophisticated beings, and the world aims to keep them that way. Effectively, truckers are culturally limited, which in turn limits their collective potential to improve the quality of their own lives.

That’s why community-building is so critical. If measures were taken to develop the trucking community, to give it power, to give it strength, and to give it broad-based cultural understanding, truckers would be enabled to make the kinds of changes that would improve their overall conditions, their lives. As of now, truckers don’t have a community presence equipped with the cultural tools needed to harness their shared visions and fix the problems that plague them. What truckers need is a targeted effort, bringing both truckers and outsiders together to discuss what’s important to them, to build awareness of the harsh conditions truckers deal with every day, and acknowledge how critical trucking is to the functioning of our world.

Truckers do have shared visions and goals, but they’re embryonic, unarticulated, and unconsolidated. Those visions don’t yet hold much weight in the public eye, but perhaps that can be changed. Truckers have been kept out of the public conversation for far too long, and they’ve lost their voice (if they even ever had one). So it’s time we give it back to them.

The post Do Truckers Have Community? appeared first on The Preppy Trucker.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Would you guess that there are as many mechanics in the U.S. as over-the-road truck drivers? Over 1.5 million folks get down and dirty on a daily basis to keep our humble modes of transportation on-the-go, and they earn about as much as truckers on the average. They’re also about as equally forgotten about.

We avoid mechanic shops as a cultural rule-of-thumb. Ever thought much about that? As a cultural practice, we dodge mechanics like bullets, hoping that when the “CHECK ENGINE” light comes on in our vehicles we can somehow handle it ourselves to keep from wasting money on expensive shop time. But imagine for a moment what it must feel like to work a job that literally everyone tries to avoid. Mechanics are a great example of an occupational group that keeps our cultural life-blood flowing, since without them our cars and trucks wouldn’t stay on the road. We’d have a hard time getting to our offices on time, joining those fun and always slightly flirtatious after-work happy hours, and attending our kids’ weekend sports games.

Even more, when our cars or trucks do break down, we give the mechanics a hard time for inconveniencing us with the amount of time it takes to fix our vehicles. We whittle shops down on price as much as possible, often throwing fits of rage at what we perceive are far too overpriced bills. I’m guilty, too. But listen, it’s hard work and things don’t always fix up the way we plan.

Mechanics have hard jobs, and they don’t earn enough for what they do. They make about as much as truckers, a measly $37k a year, hardly enough to make ends meet in our modern world; yet they keep on working their highly denigrated jobs to keep the rest of our lives moving.

By now, you can surely see the parallel I’m making between mechanics and truckers. At least it seems clear to me, the jobs that do the most to keep our lives in motion are the most undervalued. Hard hand-work like that of mechanics and truckers doesn’t pay as well or build as much culture capital as knowledge-heavy jobs like management consulting or lawyering. And underneath it all lies a silly assumption that hard-laborers can’t do the complex work of knowledge-workers because they’re not smart enough. How sad.

I can tell you most mechanics and truckers employ the same highly-valued critical thinking skills that everyone else (supposedly) does. Here’s a high-level breakdown of the intellectual steps it takes to solve a mechanical issue:

Listen. Analyze. Identify. Diagnose. Fix. 

1) listen to how a car or truck broke down

2) analyze various components of the story to determine possible causes

3) identify mechanical or electrical components potentially involved

4) diagnose and the problem

5) fix the issue

After just a little thought, it became obvious to me that good mechanics are master logicians of cause-and-effect relationships. While the rest of us are lucky to simply understand that conceptual line of thinking, mechanics jump through the hoops of critical thought as a matter of everyday practice. And there’s something deeply horrifying about this.

Our culture claims to value critical thinking skills, but we know deep down that most people don’t actually operate at that intellectual level. Sadly, the folks who actually deploy the skills our culture values the most are the people it often values the least, like mechanics and truckers.

The post Mechanics, Truckers, and Critical Thinkers appeared first on The Preppy Trucker.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Most truckers work in low-margin industries such as grocery, auto, or other dry goods, and those industries don’t make enough profit to command educated and refined workers along the entire length of the supply chain. But that’s not the only issue. In fact, it’s that our working world places too much value on multi-faceted, multi-action, knowledge-heavy jobs. Truckers and dock workers do too simple of work to merit refined, sophisticated work practices and cultures; at least, that is how the big corporations see it. So little time is spent on developing work environments, and truckers get the last kick-in-the-rear from the operational ripples.

Working in the pharmaceutical industry, I deal with more highly educated personnel and inordinately more regulated operations than most other logistics and transportation companies. The usual for me entails a stronger importance placed on customer experience, product security, and operational excellence. We take more time than other parts of the industry to ensure that product damages are avoided, we carry larger insurance coverage, we use newer and better equipment, and we have more robust operational practices.

Truckers hauling pharmaceutical products also make a lot more money than the average trucker, but oddly they get little more respect for it. The size of a person’s wallet never earns them real respect.

Respect is really a tough concept to define, since it comes in many shapes and sizes. Some people feel like they deserve respect based on their particular brand of religious philosophy or some long credentialed history of work or personal life successes. Others feel like they deserve respect because of moral discretion or the ability to meet the expectations of others. Yet others find respect to be completely irrelevant, dismissing it and thinking it has no relation to things like “care” or “concern.”

As complex a term both on paper and in practice, these notions of respect only begin to outline functional definitions, not even structural, a priori definitions of the word. Merriam-Webster defines respect as holding something or someone in “high or special regard.” Clearly, regardless of your language philosophy, truckers are not held in very high nor special regard. And if that has anything to do with a proper definition of respect, truckers ain’t got it.

And while our world continues to struggle to understand the concept of respect in meaningful, consistent ways, truckers know it means something to them. Most, if not all, truckers feel a complete lack of respect from others. Team Run Smart (TRS), a sponsored web platform that provides truckers general industry and operating advice, reported one of Overdrive Magazine’s poll results showing that a lack of respect is one of the worst parts of a trucker’s job. In response, TRS suggested 5 ways to show greater respect to drivers, which included a greater appreciation for truckers’ time, higher pay, and honesty. And it’s true, being in the industry, I can confirm that truckers are generally under-appreciated, underpaid, and frequently lied to by various entities.

Where does this incredible lack of respect come from? Surely, institutional factors aren’t the only things that lead to a lack of respect for drivers. One web forum determined that respect from others begins with yourself, requiring a higher standard of dress and professionalism, attention to detail, and customer concern. There’s definitely some truth to this. I experience completely different treatment at receivers and truck stops simply by tucking in my shirt and wearing a matching belt to my boots. Top on the Stetson cowboy hat, people open doors for me like you wouldn’t believe. And I don’t think it’s out of some anti-gunslinger fear. People in all industries feel respected when others take the time to respect themselves and the way they look and present themselves. Truckers would certainly do well to improve their overall appearance.

And now, we’ve successfully identified an exemplary chicken-or-egg argument. Either truckers get no respect because of the ways they act and present themselves or truckers get no respect because society and its denigrating systems of control put the trucker at a complete loss. Which one’s culpable in The Case of the Missing Respect? Everyone else? Or truckers themselves? Well, both actually.

At least three kinds of respect issues plague the trucker and contribute to the low quality of life they experience on a daily basis.

1. LACK OF RESPECT BY EVERYDAY AMERICANS

Truckers feel like “throwaway people.” That collective feeling stems from various stigmas that everyday folks impose upon truckers, which includes thinking them inferior intellectually, physically, politically, morally, and economically. Somehow, others need to see truckers as equals.

2. LACK OF RESPECT BY TRUCKERS FOR THEIR OWN JOBS

Truckers need to collectively dress and act professionally, taking care of their customers and equipment to a high standard of excellence. It’s hard for others to respect people who don’t respect themselves or the work they do, just ask this PhD.

3. TRUCKERS’ LACK OF SELF-RESPECT

Since it’s hard to respect others when they don’t respect themselves, this one almost goes without saying. But the fact remains, truckers need to see themselves as important to the American way of life. They need to see their everyday lives as contributions to the greater good, thereby seeing themselves as good people doing good things for others.

Truckers absolutely do need respect from others to continue to do good and better work. The Schuitema Human Excellence Group wrote, “If we are very deliberate about developing deep respectful relationships in our professional lives, what we are in effect doing is cultivating alliances which can act as a launch pad to maximize our own potential and the potential of the groups we are part of. We will all begin to view each other as valuable and will start adding value to each others lives.” A significant growth in at least these three areas of respect is crucial to ensuring that truckers continue to help everyday Americans. Besides, and we know this, who wants to work when literally no one respects what you do or how you do it? If that attitude grew, we’d all be in for quite a ride.

The post No Respect for Truckers appeared first on The Preppy Trucker.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

When I was 8 years old, I saw my first James Bond film, Goldfinger, which commenced a nearly-unceasing fascination with luxury watches. In the 1960s Bond films, 007 wore the iconic Rolex Submariner, exquisitely befitting the secret double-life of a naval commander and Casanova. But in subsequent films, other Bonds wore different watches, including the like of Seiko, Breitling, and Omega.

Despite that they were all technologically fascinating and individually unique, the Rolex always stood out to me. Thanks to Bond, the Submariner became an unequivocal symbol of the debonair, and it was something I simply had to have one day. I’ve wanted one ever since; well, until recently.

Don’t get me wrong. Watches can be impeccable works of art, exhibiting true aesthetic genius. Jaeger LeCoultre, for example, known for making the best watch movements in the world, specializes in tourbillion watches that sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s quite an investment, to be sure.

What makes a tourbillion watch like the ones made by Jaeger LeCoutlre particularly worthy of an art collection are its few thousand independently moving parts, woven together by hand like the finest silk. Every microscopic part represents an intricate filament of a patchwork masterpiece, which in the end takes highly skilled technicians up to two years to complete. The finished product is astoundingly beguiling, though. Accurate? Most definitely. In fact, LeCoultre tourbillion watches are so accurate that they’re not off time by more than a second to the leap year! Surely, nothing short of a chef-d’œuvre. But still…

“Excrement.”

Thank you, Robin Williams, for such an appropriate poetic expression. All that watch really does is tell time. That’s it. Just the time. Some watches, like those by Movado, don’t even do that much (since they don’t have hour or minute markers, forcing you to make a general guess).

Of all the most futile things in the world, the tourbillion watch may top the charts. John Mayer, if you’re listening, your multi-million-dollar time-telling device collection does nothing more for you than help you stylishly arrive on stage at the right time. Oh wait, that’s right, you have stage managers to help you accomplish that. Well don’t worry, John, I understand. It’s an easy trap.

I tried many times over the years to convince myself about the futility of the watch, but it never really sank in until now. Would you like to know what finally shed the shiny scales from my eyes? Sadly, it was something that most of us don’t really think or do very much about.

Poor, single women with kids. Yes, that needs some qualifying. Being out on the road gives you plenty of time to think about things, like I mentioned in my last post. But beyond that, you also see a lot of things, too, that you may not see if cooped up in an office cubicle or suburban neighborhood. Over the last year and a half, I’ve met several starving women; most of them having kids to feed as well. Many were waitresses, others were beggars on the streets. I could see the diminished hope in their eyes, and I could hear the despair in the ways they drudged on with their lives—thinking there was literally no way out.

After talking in depth with a few, I learned that most of them came from broken homes, have had multiple divorces, and lacked familial support. One young lady, about my age, had a son who had a rare stomach disease that left him incapable of eating or drinking just about anything without having an acid reflux-like reaction. You should have seen his face light up when, after buying him his special hamburger with no bun, I said let’s get you a Coke, too. I’d buy him a thousand more to see him smile again. His mother, astonishingly, never asked for a thing.

And this experience was similar to many others. It made me think about the incredible resilience required of women in our era. Yes, required.

Having spent most of my adolescent life a fairly conservative Christian, studied the Bible relentlessly, and gained understanding of various theological positions in-and-out, I noticed there was one doctrine that seemed obvious, plain, yet also completely unapplied: care for poor women and children. The Bible clearly suggests it’s important to provide for the poor, especially women and children. Which is all to say that such a dogma plays an interesting role for me now, posing a psychological backdrop from which my feelings and existential agitation stem from.

Back in the day (even many still today), women spent the majority of their time in domesticity, caring for their children and often helping with odd jobs around the house. They were expected to, they had few alternative options.

Now, many and innumerably more women are active workers in our vast and complex economy. They’re expected, by a neo-liberal dogma to fend for themselves just as man have been expected of for thousands of years before. Indeed, the two are still incomparable; most women still navigate a complex cultural paradigm of competing visions. But there is no doubt we have progressed toward a liberation of women, which is a wonderful thing. But after those I’ve met, I wonder how this new ideology impacts women who are poor and destitute?

Each of the poor women I’ve met felt completely determined to figure things out on their own. They highly appreciated gifts for their children, but they were reluctant to accept gifts themselves. They wanted to be overcomers. There could be myriad reasons for this, but it was regardless a surprisingly common thread.

Perhaps they wondered if a young, single man could have good intentions. Or perhaps their reluctance signaled a belief in the American dream, providing determined women of our complex society the hope of pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps. Many other reasons come to mind. It seems clear rather obvious to me that the liberation of women in our age may make it harder for some women, requiring them to be resilient and independent. And yet, these women I’ve seen are in dire need. It’s a dilemma to be sure.

I bet you’re still wondering what this has to do with a Rolex. Just hang on, nearly there.

So, curious about the situation of the destitute American woman with kids, I dug deeper. Depending on the reports you read, there are approximately 3.5 million impoverished single women with children in the United States. Most of them work 1-2 highly underpaying jobs that make it logistically impossible to on top of that care for their children without expensive (usually unaffordable) assistance. These mothers make less than $15,000 per year, and wonder if they’ll be able to feed, clothe, and raise their children.

Of the several that I spoke to at length, they feel public welfare is, of course, too bureaucratic and hard to navigate. Oddly, the programs are innumerable, as I’ve researched. But when you think through the time those mothers have after meeting all of their basic obligations, you soon realize that expecting them to take a few more hours each week to complete paper applications for government subsidies acts like a third part-time job. Many women won’t even try because they know it’s too tough of a process. This situation seems ridiculous to me.

But what can I do? I can’t make the bureaucracy more easily navigable. That would take years of political maneuvering, maybe to no avail at all. A few women I met who did not have kids, beggars who were clearly destitute and deprived of any reasonable ability to obtain food or decent clothing, were equally dismayed. So I realized that there may be something to this Biblical thing about giving. But what’s the best way?

That was when it hit me. The luxury watch had to go. And millions more with it, I should say.

Rolex manufactures nearly a million watches per year that sell on average for at least $7500 per watch. That means that around the globe, just for one watch brand, people are wasting nearly $10 billion per year on something completely futile. If those rich 1%ers gave their watch money, they could bring a quarter of the impoverished women with kids in the United States up from poverty for an entire year, enabling many of them to find better jobs, go to school, or provide for their starving, deprived children.

A man needs no watch when he can tell time by the number of lives he changes. So I’ve decided to end my desire for the Rolex and instead donate the money I would have spent on it to various organizations or single women with children I meet along my travels. It’s certainly no long-term solution, but when I compare the ideas of buying a nice watch or helping someone out, there’s a markedly clear decision: sell a watch, save a woman (and her kids, too).

Now that’s a better movement.

The post Sell a Watch, Save a Woman appeared first on The Preppy Trucker.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Why do most social movements and protests fail? Occupy Wall Street, Tea Party, Black Lives Matter. These are all examples of recent American social movements that resulted in little-to-no change. They even demonstrated incredible advantages, such as significant media attention and sheer group size, yet they ultimately failed in the end. Today, we’ll look briefly at a few reasons why.

REASON #1: LACK OF CLEAR PURPOSE

One blog suggested that Occupy Wall Street failed due to lack of consensus on the movement’s objectives and goals. What was supposed to be the end result of an attack on the 1%ers? Higher taxes? Wealth redistribution? Increased regulation on banking practices? No one really knows.

But one lesson we learned from that public spectacle was that it’s hard to go the right way if you don’t know where you’re going. Make no mistake, Occupy was never going to land a house on Wall Street, since quality of vision can never make up for what lacks in strategy.

Interestingly, the co-founder of Occupy wrote an article for The Guardian explaining why protests fail to have the positive net result often expected by participants. Micah White astutely noted that there’s simply no guarantee that social movements will succeed even when objectives are clear. Communication of clear purpose is only half the battle. For White, what really matters is the power of the electorate.

White maintains that it is actually morally better to use voting power to enact meaningful change. But there’s many significant problems with his way of thinking. First of all, his rather antiquated and establishmentarian approach fails, especially as it relates to the case of the Occupy movement, since voting power usually tends to favor those with capital power (a.k.a. wealth). Adding to that, as America grows in size, the statistical value of an individual’s vote actually decreases. We’ve already long-known that our votes don’t matter for much, but it’s even getting worse.

And finally, when’s the last time we voted a conglomerate of Congressional leaders in who, in the end game, actually enacted legislation that benefited a particular social movement? Probably 1964, with the Civil Rights Act. That was more than 50 years ago.

Though White rightly sees protest as a generally ineffective tool for social change, his solution is irrefutably not the morally correct answer.

REASON #2: LACK OF AUTHORITY TO ENACT CHANGE

Another blog, written by an academic devoted to the study of social movements around the world, concluded that social movements fail due to lack of clear authority. When political or economic power juxtaposes with charismatic leadership, politics or money usually wins. And we see this all the time, whether we’re talking about major social change like gun control or time-off policy change in a small- to medium-sized corporation.

Occupy’s failure most certainly stemmed, at least in part, from this issue of authority. Despite the existence of strong leadership by several key spokespersons, especially that of Micah White, the movement failed because it didn’t have the right kind of power to reduce the wealthy class to appropriate levels (according to the Occupiers). Influence is one thing, but authority is another. When the majority of Congressmen and women demonstrate long-standing effect by corporate interest, it’s easy to understand why a movement like Occupy would fail to gain governmental authority to enact real change against the 1%. They were simply not the decision-makers.

The concept of “authority” is nebulous, though, to be fair. Who really has authority to enact meaningful change in our complex world? Is it only Congressional leaders? The President? The “people”? It remains generally unclear what degree of consensus is actually needed to achieve net positive results. Some folks think that local, community-oriented efforts to mobilize bite-size efforts for change are generally more effective in the long run because the span-of-control needed to achieve results is more practicable. But then, if all efforts were only local, what complex problems would still remain in the aggregate that we don’t even have now?

REASON #3: LACK OF INTELLECTUAL RIGOR

Based on my own observations of recent movements, many efforts fail to have the smarts to round out their strategies. It occurred to me last year, while watching the statements of Florida high school students reflecting on their mass school shooting, that intellectual immaturity plays a role in predetermining the inevitable failure of social movements.

Not to be too critical of those daring young people, justly enraged by the appalling nature of their circumstances and fearful of future events, they spoke without carefully understanding what their words signified. “Never Again” suggested a clear objective, but their motto was undoubtedly unrealistic and emblematic of immature, un-rounded thinking. The outrage after Columbine in 1999 sparked a similar public sentiment (yet not quite to the extent of mass protest) but ultimately came up short in the end when it came to increased measures of gun control.

Listening to the student speeches on TV, I realized it was more important to reiterate that such a travesty should never happen again rather than discuss specific policy alternatives. In the place of intellectual discourse, their rhetoric was generally empty, excepting their passionate resolve to hate the crimes against them. The fact is, these students simply hadn’t developed the kind of knowledge, in the face of an already more-than-ever knowing world, that could sustain a social justice movement facing an all-powerful political giant of interest-based representative government. They preferred passion over pragmatics—which was not just symptomatic of their age, but instead the era in which they’re living.

It’s now the prevailing cultural sentiment to welcome personal stories over professional solutions. Which means, we’ve come ‘round to the end of a negative analysis on “expert opinion,” such that we rely more heavily on feeling and story than ever before. The fact remains, unless a higher degree of intellectual rigor is applied to protest, social movements will continue to experience failure.

REASON #4: RESISTANCE TO POLITICAL RECALIBRATION

That’s just my highfalutin term for describing our collective reticence to redesigning the way our governmental and political system works. As it stands, it is very unlikely to expect meaningful change from protests, period. We need to rethink the laws and institutions that govern us before we will ever see long-lasting change in important matters. But that doesn’t mean protests don’t shape public sentiment; in fact, over time they do play a large role. Protests have a way of galvanizing support at the same time they educate other non-interested parties from afar. Even if some groups of people stay clear of the protest fray, they nevertheless, in our technologically advanced age, see the existence of alternative views when protests make the news. So, protests should go on; but don’t expect change from them.

No effective future governance will come without intellectual rigor, without granting authority to the masses, or without clear purpose. But if we embrace the need for political recalibration, we may yet see the changes we desire.

In the final analysis, we’re walking through a time in history when the mass of Americans feel real collective pain and are willing to show it. If this were not true, why would we see such vibrant cultural outcries against injustices? The pain in our bloody leg is getting needled, deeper and deeper, and we’re trying desperately to alleviate the feeling. But it’s time America stops drugging itself up with short-term band aid fixes…because what it really needs is a surgical overhaul.

The post Why Social Movements Fail appeared first on The Preppy Trucker.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Historically, we’ve relied on expert thinkers like Karl Marx or Louis Althusser to define complicated words like “ideology” for us. If you’re not familiar with their intellectual contributions, a decent starting point begins with thinking about how we commonly think about political ideology. It usually entails one of our favorite buzzwords: division.

Here’s what it does: ideology propagates a latent barrier between ourselves and people who are different from us. It also never begins with ourselves. What this means is that, as both Marx himself and neo-Marxist theoreticians would agree, ideology is reproduced. But how? One way ideology sets up division is through government. Our systems of government fortify the varying, often antagonistic, assumptions that underlie our complicated ways of being and the value systems that undergird them. And sometimes, many times, the passing down of those assumptions leads us to failure.

Assumptions about political difference, for example, can cause unbridgeable divide because they’re often reproduced, handed-down from powerful systems of control. Our political climates often create trenches of separation between citizens by developing legal and economic policies that create radical divisions. They perpetuate things like inequality and class struggle, things most of us can agree we despise, through political antagonisms over things like hyper-regulation and unwise public spending. Furthermore, political difference in America makes it overall difficult for leaders to decide what legislative acts produce the greatest value. In effect, we end up making band aid fixes to serious problems.

Despite all its successes, America has undoubtedly failed to live up to our current definition of  “public responsibility” and has created band aid fix after band aid fix to cover up our deeply invasive and pandemic political illnesses. We let students get shot, we let poor people go unfed, we let unsupported mothers fail at supporting their children, and so much more. And even where programs exist to positively address these shortcomings, they produce even more barriers to entry that they get unused by the folks who need them most. Meanwhile, many of us stockpile our wealth out of some generically selfish ambition, without any apparent hope of it being used in ways that sustainably support the people who have no access, no ability, or no practical right to a higher quality of life. How irresponsible! Even though we are most certainly to blame for this evil in a very personal way, perhaps even more blame is rightly due the system we’ve established. It can be so much better.

Recently, I watched a video, more the continuation of a non-establishmentarian discourse than an interview, featuring Dave Rubin and Ben Shapiro. During their hour-long discussion, they cover a wide range of political topics highlighting differences between “Right” and “Left.” They balance the rules of logic with pragmatics about controversial things, but ultimately miss the boat on a concept severely absent from our public discourse on political philosophy: compassion.

In their banter, Shapiro says that he simply does not agree in a progressive tax system. He, I think rightly, asks, “Why should I pay more in taxes simply because I earn more money than others?” A staggering, generally over-looked question. In truth, morally authoritative answers to this question are very hard, nearly impossible, to adjudicate.

Hard Left-wingers would argue that economic inequality produces nothing but a bunch of haves and have nots, a neo-Marxian perspective that aims at reducing the disparity between those with greater access to mechanisms fostering wealth accumulation and eliminating the incongruent opportunities that members of certain social strata have at their fingertips to manipulate and take advantage of capital. In short, the Leftist argument goes: some people have more barriers than others, so we should help them out.

And in their response, conservatives today really don’t get their fair share of respect—evidenced by the fact that the Leftist logic train fails to really answer the question (again, “why should I pay more in taxes simply because I earn more money?”). The Leftist logic certainly provides one potential answer, but it is not the only answer. In fact, it is subject to producing the same kind of social and economic hegemony as does the conservative right to hoard money earned for oneself. Both are value propositions. Both are ideas steeped in moral, cultural arguments. Both are even highly principled, but truly neither can be adjudicated as “gospel.”

And that’s where the rubber meets the road. I think most of us know this, and I think we also know that the media seems to avoid letting us rest in this in-between space where neither moral vision seems to be met with real, sustainable, and actionable support. Instead, politicians and the media exacerbate the problem and lead it down a road of perpetuation. Nothing gets done.

In fact, this is the point where most of us give up. We often respond, “Ugh, I just wish we’d stop bickering and actually do something good that everyone agrees on. In a big way. Not just another tax break or public expenditure.” This visceral response, invoking the deep and non-politically correct pains that we humans feel in our American space, indicates a collective sentiment that “good” may yet be around the corner. It’s a sign of both an unpalliated public malady and an unfulfilled optimism. We’ve not entirely given up on the idea that social values can’t be negotiated, and so we continue looking for answers.

But even our smartest thinkers, no matter how intellectually robust and sound their arguments may be, have missed the mark entirely. They allowed the system to get the better of them. They’ve mistakenly put philosophy above the need for what I’ll call: compassionate politics. That’s the kind of politics that thinks about how to care for people, not just how to help a few people turn profits.

The post Compassion and the Missing Link of Public Responsibility appeared first on The Preppy Trucker.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Trucking in the 1980s was a heyday. Growth in U.S. production caused the number of trucks on the road to grow by over 50% between 1975 and 1990, and a significant piece of deregulating legislation in 1980 called The Motor Carrier Act led to increased average wages for OTR truckers and improved overall flexibility in the logistics market. As a result, higher wages sparked a new wave of entrants to the trucking industry. Driving became a relatively cool thing to do, much like wearing penny loafers without any socks to the office. Owner-operators made between $30-$40k per year, and in the 1980’s that was good, middle-class money. Being a trucker at that time you could save money for retirement, feel the freedom of the open road, and own a chromed-out big rig with tons of shiny lights. Those folks were “livin’ the dream.”

But unfortunately, that’s only half the story. Industry growth hit the brakes, and post-inflationary pressures of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s kept driver pay relatively in place. On average, truckers have earned about the same ever since, making their economic power to buy just about anything today smaller than ever. A recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that increased competition during that time led to an overall decrease in average wages for most folks in the industry. And according to the Department of Labor, the average OTR trucker in the U.S. now earns only $42,000 per year, barely more than they did 30 years ago. And truckers aren’t the only ones. They’re just one great example of large systemic wage suppression in the United States (if you don’t believe me, check this article out).

Despite a considerable driver shortage (as much as 50,000 truckers according to some reports), wages have remained incongruently low for years. It’s tempting to think that a shortage could have brought about higher wages, but it hasn’t. It likely will though if the industry doesn’t make some drastic changes. The shortage will get worse. With an average trucker age of 49, there’s a looming retirement bubble waiting to burst like bubblegum on the industry’s prickly face. Some employers don’t see this as a problem and find ways around it. But with an industry average turnover rate of around 90%, most employers feel the pain. To alleviate that pain many companies have developed robust recruiting efforts, but in doing so they’ve missed the big picture. Most trucking companies are just running over their own feet trying to get folks to drive for them under oppressive conditions.

One major issue right now is that the trucking industry generally views driver pay as an operational cost rather than a business opportunity cost. For those of you not so business savvy, this is similar to the difference between looking at your bathroom toilet as a household utility instead of an everyday necessity. In effect, companies have paid truckers low wages and worked around driver shortages by adjusting rates of production and by cramming additional freight in trailers. As if truckers are the problem, companies continue to squeeze them for as much work with as little pay as possible. In the end, drivers feel the brunt of it.

Some companies try to lure new drivers through increased home time and specialty pay. Since most truckers are out on the road 200+ days of the year, employers with those programs have realized a slight competitive advantage in the employment market by logistically orchestrating more home time for their drivers. But here’s the catch: drivers working for those companies make even less than the average because of the time off and logistical cost to employers. And drivers are finally starting to catch on to this.

Another strategy, specialty pay for hauling goods like hazardous materials (HAZMAT) or pharmaceuticals has allowed some drivers to make a considerable amount more than the average driver (up to six figure incomes in rare cases). But that’s still not attracting new and younger entrants. One article suggests that sign-on and safety bonuses have not helped companies either. With how impossible those bonuses are to actually achieve, this comes as no surprise to me. Tactics like these are at least part of a relatively intelligent logic train, but the tracks still point in the wrong direction. Most companies continue to spin their wheels wondering why they can’t attract or retain decent workforces.

Let’s take a step back now and recap. There aren’t enough drivers. They’re generally not paid well. They’re overworked and under-appreciated. Growth in the U.S. economy over time hasn’t helped. Companies can’t really figure out why. The situation’s not getting any better. And there’s seemingly no good solution. This sad reality is where the pejorative phrase “livin’ the dream” actually comes from, meaning that what once was a dream is not really any longer.

So what’s really going on? And why is everyone in the industry not getting it? The brightest minds in the business have yet to address the real issues at play. Virtually no one understands this and is willing to address more complex cultural factors.

And who’s to blame them? Large marginal returns don’t exist in the industry. Profit is based on freight volume and keeping operating costs low. Numbers. Numbers. Numbers. The cheaper you move the goods, the greater are your chances for marginal return. But things like advanced technology and process improvement cost a ton of money, since it means large capital and infrastructural investment. As long as the trucking industry focuses on these strategies, they’ll keep breathing air into that bubble until it bursts. Remember what would have happened if the banks weren’t bailed out? Yeah, it’s about as big of a deal. Imagine a world with a toilet paper shortage.

Today’s generally accepted business principles maintain that good people doing good work happily do good business. Right now, that does not describe the trucking situation. The problem is that drivers today are lost in the midst of a complex super-structural industry machine and are relatively forgotten about and exploited. Even worse, most companies don’t really seem to care. Something drastic needs to be done. To set the industry down the right path, trucking will need to develop its ability to appeal to the cultural needs of highly educated post-millennial generations. They’re the (near) future.

In my opinion, the existing driver shortage in America stems from three dominant cultural factors. First, people today are more highly educated than ever with over 30% holding a bachelor’s degree or higher. This number will only continue to grow since most employers now see a four-year college degree as the new minimum requirement. This highly educated young culture expects higher wage earnings, job prestige, and better quality of life.

Second, along with large acquisitive business growth over the last 15-20 years, large corporations have become the occupational bedrock for young educated Americans. We now, more than ever, rely on the stability of large companies for job opportunities and respectable wages. And third, negative cultural stigmas associated with trucking have deterred new entrants from joining the rank and file. Simply not carrying enough prestige and cultural influence to be noteworthy, America’s new average citizen sees trucking as beneath them. And who wants to be away from home so much just for that? Money isn’t everything you know.

In short, if trucking is to overcome existing and future pressures such as an ever-present driver shortage, it’s going to need to address various cultural factors instead of ones simply found on a company’s balance sheet. Preoccupations with profit-focused business tactics will only lead to further exploitation of drivers and future market inefficiencies. Bottom line: the industry needs a culture change in order to thrive in the future. What might that look like?

The post Exploited Truckers and the Case for Culture Change appeared first on The Preppy Trucker.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Are we good or bad?

Now, that’s a tough question. It’s so tough that brilliant philosophers have been beleaguered by it for centuries; and we regular people have had a hard time with it, too. It’s one of those questions that, at least for most people, doesn’t always seem relevant, mainly because it feels vague or unanswerable. Some of us even feel it’s not our place to form a judgment on the matter. Yet (rather ironically) most of our interactions with others on a daily basis depend on our answer.

Years ago, a fairly intelligent boss of mine told me that a belief in the goodness of others is an essential characteristic of a good leader. In the moment, what he said struck me in a weird way and made me feel totally uncomfortable. I thought, “Does this mean that in order to be a good leader I have to assume that, at the root of someone’s character, lies some kind of real, genuine goodness (no matter what they do)?” I had a hard time with this, not least because I couldn’t seem to even think it of myself.

After some years, though, I realized that what seemed odd to me about it at the time had a lot to do with my upbringing. Taught to think that when Adam and Eve took a bite of that Edenic Honeycrisp we were all automatically made sinful, I grew up believing that humanity suffers from a universal, perpetual, and accursed fate: caused forever to walk the earth as ugly and unruly beasts until redemption comes and turns us back into princes and princesses. No wonder I had a hard time believing in the goodness of others.

In this way, Christianity responds to the question with a hard “NO!” People are all bad. Very bad.

Feels harsh, doesn’t it? Interestingly, there are other ways of arriving at the same conclusion, but they might feel a little less emotionally jarring. Enlightenment thinkers like Denis Diderot also saw humankind as bad, but corrupted by external forces rather than internal ones. Diderot saw religion (specifically Christianity) as man’s goodness-killer, having turned man into a rule-following fool lacking all reason and a thoroughgoing moral philosophy. Thus, Diderot thought religion corrupts us, rendering us incapable of living sensibly and coherently with one another. So, bad was his verdict, but not in a manner of our own doing per se.

Perhaps my personal favorite of the Enlightenment philosophers, Jean-Jacques Rousseau understood the fallibility of humankind as a bi-product of societal development, what Max Weber would later call “rationalization.” Rousseau understood that our badness stemmed from the imposing nature of an increasingly scientific and highly structured world. Rich men, for example, had developed systems (ways of governing, mainly) to fortify their social status and their control of culture, and this caused damaging social inequalities. Rousseau believed we had devolved to such a point that we had completely alienated ourselves, à la Karl Marx and the alienation of self and society. In this way “bad” scores again.

But obviously, some folks disagree with this and feel that people are mostly on-the-whole decent and good. Dedicated postmodern or humanist types view the world as principally interpretable, meaning there is no clearly authoritative opinion on virtually any matter. So, in response to this difficult question, they are usually more willing to assume that most people want to be good, do good things unto others, and so on and so forth. In the end, this reasoning ends with the conclusion that it is usually better to assume good in people rather than bad because it often leads to more positive outcomes. Much more could be said, of course; but that about sums it all up. So, one point for the “good” folks.

But a winning score doesn’t settle the matter. The question’s really hard. For the like of Jordan Peterson, the deconstructionist, or postmodern, argument does us no real good in the end, ultimately rendering us a value-less society. But the hardline Christian defense is also rather problematic (at least on some issues), since irreligious folks and general dissenters feel it’s rather hard to swallow. Hence, there’s a bit of an impasse.

But let’s face it, and this more closely represents where I lean on the matter, the world has become better in some ways but worse in others. Some people seem to do bad things, and others seem to do good things. What this generally tells me is that we’re bad until we prove otherwise. The fact that we have mentally insane people who have the internal capability to convince themselves (often rationally, mind you) of mass murder tells me we’re not all good. Come on people, this is a “no-duh.” And if this “no-duh” is true for individuals, it’s likely also true for society. After all, if we collectively exhibited any reasonable definition of the word “good” definitively, we likely wouldn’t desire things like change, now would we?

So, in the end of this rather shorthand version of a metaphysical analysis, typical responses derived from either religion or philosophy don’t seem to drive us collectively forward on certain issues as much as we’d like. And even though I personally tend toward the “bad” side of the question, I still think it would be nice to uncover ways to move forward in meaningful ways despite our differences.

People have been unsuccessfully navigating differences for millennia, by the way. Granting a win to Peterson (see his book, 12 Rules for Life), if we haven’t figured it out by now it may not be likely that we ever do it. Differences are inevitable. Inequalities are permanent fixtures of our collective existence.

But what does this have to do with politics? Everything. If society is bad, it needs help to get better.

In America today, we have some serious problems. I won’t even mention the rest of the world. There are some people in our country ticked off at other people (at least from their point of view) for amassing absurd levels of wealth, and there are people also ticked off at others for having the audacity to use politics as a way to take money from them that (as they so believe) they’ve earned on their own. In truth, as I and many of you may likely see it, there’s a reasonable face of truth on both sides of this coin.

Make no mistake. There is no real, definitive reason why we must take money from rich people who by moral-legal standards earned so lawfully. But there’s also no real, definitive reason why we must provide money to people who may or may not have opportunities to gain wealth or status. This, my friends, is just the reality. Start dealing with it.

If you don’t, you’ll eventually find yourselves the reason for our present, American political impasse. In fact, you may already be.

You see, we’ve reached a point where the typical middle-ground approach is completely unsatisfactory. Allow me to briefly explain why. Historically, America has used legislative power to enact regulations that fight for the weak, or at least keep the strong from becoming too strong. I’ll cite Constitutional amendments and the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 as evidence. But as a work-around, our political system paradoxically allows for the monopolization of public opinion through its very own bargaining process: rich people’s opinions simply matter more in practice. So, in the end, American politics (as Rousseau witnessed almost 300 years ago in Europe) reinforces the way of the rich by orienting its policies in amenable ways to those with always-already power. The weak lose.

And here’s the worst part: we’re all weak. Strip the rich of their wealth, and they’re just like us—they need the basics as much as we do.

And that’s where the answer lies. It’s right under our noses, but we’ve almost completely lost our sense of smell. There is a middle-way. And it starts with compassion.

What is compassion? It literally means to hold “sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.” Being compassionate does not mean giving away our freedom (a.k.a. money) to people in need. But it does mean we have a concern for them. The vast disproportions of wealth in our country should tell you proof-positive that there’s a general lack of compassion going on. Remember my watch post and those poor single mothers?

If we are to maintain the validity of both arguments, the one for wealth creation and the other for welfare, we need to get back to basics. And that’s what I call compassionate politics.

In general, market forces allow for opportunity and the pursuit of expanded human freedom and flourishing. We humans are motivated, in large part, by capitalistic forces and are provided with many wonderful life-enhancing luxuries because of them. But we also experience insatiable need-gaps in areas that are most critical to life.

In closing, let’s briefly look at a few. First, water. Water is something we all need. Though there’s no definitive rule showing we absolutely need it and should have it, nobody in their right mind could argue that not all Americans need water to survive. So, one way to ensure that all Americans have access to decent, healthy water is by using Federal monies to ensure that urban centers are supplied with good water systems and means of distribution. We actually do a decent job of this already, but there is much enhancement needed in this area. We would do better to ensure that more Americans have decent water than bolster the number of paintless contemporary paintings in museums (see the all-white painting hung in the National Gallery of Art for the rarest of publicly expensive absurdities).

Second, just as obvious, food is something we all need. Same argument. But millions of Americans struggle to put healthy, sustaining meals on their tables. This is a huge problem! And philanthropy cannot solve it, that much is obvious.

There is a more complete list to be made, but only to a point. There is a reasonable “end” to public assistance, this Socialist-lite version of American politics I’m all but proposing. We don’t need everything. Things that probably should be included are: basic shelter, bathroom accessibility and human waste management, roads and infrastructure (which includes trucking, by the way; wait for my forthcoming book for that full analysis), education (to the point it prepares young people for work in the real world, which it most certainly does not do right now), military and defense (although, we are too aggressively strong right now for our own good), and basic health care. These are all fundamentals of collective, human life—although, even a few of these are arguably not really fundamentals (i.e. education and defense). They are supplements to rationalized and complex human collective life, but critical nonetheless in the here-and-now.

As yet, all we do in America is complain and argue from our ideological standpoints, holding out for our complete and utter freedom. That includes those at the bottom of the social order and at the top. But so long as we live together, complete and utter freedom goes out the window for everyone. This is the reality. But there are some basic things we all need that should be provided to all…at least to a point. And this is a better way. It is more compassionate. It is more understanding. And it will require the rich to earn less, but it will allow others to live more. Life is better than death, right?

So, leave the luxuries, which make up the vast majority of life-things, to market forces. As for the others, the basics, let’s think about ways that our politics can be compassionate—securing the future flourishing of all people. That’s a better way.

The post The Better Way of Compassionate Politics appeared first on The Preppy Trucker.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

A few days ago, at a small, boutique grocery store just north of Toronto, I found myself discovering a very practical meaning to the word “ideology” at the check-out counter.

Not unlike any usual grocery-shopping experience, I began removing items from my basket to load them onto the check-out counter conveyor belt. Most grocery stores these days have conveyor belts, you know; so, there really wasn’t anything that unusual going on. But as I continued, I realized that there wasn’t much room between the rear of the conveyor belt and the point at which the food items of the person ahead of me began. I found myself, as I stacked my items very neatly, forced to encroach upon that inviolate, consumer acreage then occupied by the food items of the person ahead of me in line. Heaven forbid, if I wasn’t careful, my items could’ve been confused as theirs, not mine; so, the associate handed me a so-called “divider” to clearly demarcate the staunch division between this abstract theirs and mine. It seemed to help. Our foods didn’t touch.

Historically, we’ve relied on expert thinkers like Karl Marx or Louis Althusser to define complicated words like “ideology” for us. And if you don’t know them or aren’t aware of their intellectual contributions, just think about any media or political personality that has shaped your (likely flawed) understanding of the word. For me, in that moment at the check-out counter—a kind of usual, mundane moment where deep meanings of life most commonly escape us—the theatrics of academic discipline and political theory transformed into real life and made it possible for me to easily understand the barriers we all face daily in navigating our highly politicized world.

You see, ideology operates just like that “divider” on the grocery store conveyor belt. In real life, we determine that which is ours, which might include things such as beliefs, values, or physical belongings, and we almost immediately (even unconsciously) acknowledge a fundamental barrier between those things and the things of someone else. But that separating mechanism, on its own, doesn’t quite fully explain the word “ideology” or how it works.

What does explain the word, though, can be found in looking at the bigger picture of that grocery-store phenomena: there’s always those little “separators” available to keep people’s things contained, isolated, and sacred. Much like our quazi-democratic and overwhelmingly bureaucratized political system in America, the grocery store system, if you’ll let me call it a system, provides those “dividers” to serve as a mechanism of, among many other things: justice, fairness, equality, and safety. They keep us in order, and they reduce social struggle, angst, and anxiety. After all, nobody likes fighting over whose food made it into the wrong bag. So, to make it easy, the system created a mechanism that would perpetually call-out a positive thing called “difference,” thereby supporting the ideals of equality and justice. Sounds like a good thing, right?

But, hold on. It’s actually rather dubious. I couldn’t help myself but stand there astonished, holding up that line of folks anxious to get out of the store and on with their lives. It was a thinking moment. I thought to myself, “Where’s the trust? Where’s the empathy? Where’s the compassion? And why do we need a ‘divider’ to get along?”

And then it hit me: ideology propagates a latent barrier between ourselves and people who are different from us, and it rarely originates in ourselves. What this means is that, as both Marx himself and neo-Marxist theoreticians would agree, ideology is reproduced. But how? Well, I saw how standing in line at that store. Just as the grocery store system supports the theoretical barrier between the abstract ideas of mine and yours through those little “dividers,” so too does our system(s) of government fortify the varying, often antagonistic, assumptions that underlie our complicated ways of being and the value systems that undergird them. And sometimes, many times, the passing down of those assumptions lead us to failure.

You’ve already seen in my previous writings that assumptions related to things like political protest or constitutional right are often flawed. Even more, assumptions about political difference can cause unbridgeable divide because they’re often reproduced, handed-down from powerful systems of control. The fact is, those little grocery store “dividers” operate as mechanisms of trust-breaking, and the point is we live in a world replete with these kinds of things.

Our failing governmental system, and it is failing (although, just to clarify, not in the same way Trump uses the word “failing”), creates trenches of separation between itself and its citizens by propping up legal and economic policies that act like grocery store “dividers.” It perpetuates things like inequality and class struggle, things most of us can agree we despise, through political antagonisms over things like hyper-regulation and unwise public spending. Perhaps, as it has occurred to me, since the government can’t seem to decide what legislative things produce the greatest value, you’d agree that we’ve got ourselves into the business of making band aids.

Despite all its successes, America has undoubtedly failed to develop a sustainable definition for the term “public responsibility” and has created band aid fix after band aid fix to cover up our deeply invasive and pandemic political illnesses. We let students get shot, we let poor people go unfed, we let unsupported mothers fail at supporting their children, and so much more. And even where programs exist to positively address these shortcomings, they produce even more barriers to entry that they get unused by the folks who need them most. Meanwhile, many of us stockpile our wealth out of some generically selfish ambition, without any apparent hope of it being used in ways that sustainably support the people who have no access, no ability, or no practical right to a higher quality of life. How irresponsible! Even though we are most certainly to blame for this evil in a very personal way, perhaps even more blame is rightly due the system we’ve established. It can be so much better.

Recently, I watched a video, more the continuation of a non-establishmentarian discourse than an interview, featuring Dave Rubin and Ben Shapiro. During their hour-long discussion, they cover a wide range of political topics highlighting differences between “Right” and “Left.” They balance the rules of logic with pragmatics about controversial things, but ultimately miss the boat on a concept severely absent from our public discourse on political philosophy: compassion.

In their banter, Shapiro says that he simply does not agree in a progressive tax system. He, I think rightly, asks, “Why should I pay more in taxes simply because I earn more money than others?” A staggering, generally over-looked question. In truth, morally authoritative answers to this question are very hard, nearly impossible, to adjudicate. Hard Left-wingers would argue that economic inequality produces nothing but a bunch of haves and have nots, a neo-Marxian perspective that aims at reducing the disparity between those with greater access to mechanisms fostering wealth accumulation and eliminating the incongruent opportunities that members of certain social strata have at their fingertips to manipulate and take advantage of capital. In short, the Leftist argument goes: some people have more barriers than others, so we should help them out.

And in their response, conservatives today really don’t get their fair share of respect—evidenced by the fact that the Leftist logic train fails to really answer the question (again, “why should I pay more in taxes simply because I earn more money?”). The Leftist logic certainly provides one potential answer, but it is not the only answer. In fact, it is subject to producing the same kind of social and economic hegemony as does the conservative right to hoard money earned for oneself. Both are value propositions. Both are ideas steeped in moral, cultural arguments. Both are even highly principled, but truly neither can be adjudicated as “gospel.”

And that’s where the rubber meets the road. I think most of us know this, and I think we also know that the media seems to avoid letting us rest in this in-between space where neither moral vision seems to be met with real, sustainable, and actionable support. Instead, politicians and the media exacerbate the problem and lead it down a road of perpetuation. Nothing gets done.

In fact, this is the point where most of us give up. We often respond, “Ugh, I just wish we’d stop bickering and actually do something good that everyone agrees on. In a big way. Not just another tax break or public expenditure.” This visceral response, invoking the deep and non-politically correct pains that we humans feel in our American space, indicates a collective sentiment that “good” may yet be around the corner. It’s a sign of both an unpalliated public malady and an unfulfilled optimism. We’ve not entirely given up on the idea that social values can’t be negotiated, and so we continue looking for answers.

But even our smartest thinkers, no matter how intellectually robust and sound their arguments may be, have missed the mark entirely. They allowed the system to get the better of them. They stood at the counter and waited for the associate to put the “divider” up for them, per usual. They’ve mistakenly put philosophy above the need for what I’ll call: compassionate politics.

In that vein, keep a watchful eye out for my next post, which will outline a few tenants of what I think it means to develop a compassionate politics—the kind that might actually start solving real, everyday problems. It won’t solve inequality, which is something I believe can never be solved, but it can at least improve individual potential and enhance collective possibilities. Compassion is indeed the answer, but how? Wouldn’t it be great to live in a divider-less world?

The post Compassion: The Missing Link of Public Responsibility appeared first on The Preppy Trucker.

Read Full Article

Read for later

Articles marked as Favorite are saved for later viewing.
close
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Separate tags by commas
To access this feature, please upgrade your account.
Start your free month
Free Preview