Posts categorized "Observations"

Life is (also) elsewhere

There is a certain attitude among people who live in cities like London, New York, and Paris that they are living "at the center of things". There is an unspoken attitude that the mundane details of their lives are somehow more interesting and important just because they happen to live in a place that "counts".  Their careers are thought to be more important, the neighborhoods they live in somehow mean something significant, their circle of friends and their social activities are thought to be fascinating, and their restaurants are to be raved about as the best in the world. Everything about their lives are assumed to be more evolved and advanced than those of us living in places that are less popular and familiar.

This attitude is not only held by inhabitants of major cities, but unfortunately it is also shared by most of us who have chosen to live elsewhere. We actually, deep down, believe the lie that our lives are less significant because we aren't walking streets that are routinely shown in the movies. I suppose TV and films promote this narrative, as most of them take place in one of these major cities. Also, our friends who move away often return only to make us feel insignificant by bragging about their fabulous and glamorous lives elsewhere. Everywhere we turn, this attitude is reinforced. 

I used to be quite the offender. When I lived in Seattle, I was insufferable. When I would travel back to my hometown (or when I would go anywhere else in the world really) I was never shy about informing people about how wonderful and perfect things were in Seattle. I felt as though I was living somewhere that "counted"...as though my adopted Seattle opinions and values were cool, correct, and indisputable...as though our food was better...our coffee was better...our people were more educated...and of course I was superior because I happened to have a rented apartment (and a boring job) there.

So is it true? Is a walk down a beautiful street in Trieste, Italy somehow less interesting or important than a walk down 5th Avenue? Is a beautiful apartment in Ljubljana, Slovenia somehow less beautiful than an over-priced, smaller one in the center of London? Is a walk with a lover in a neighborhood park any less romantic than a long taxi ride and a walk in Central Park? Is a wonderful meal in Miskolc, Hungary less tasty than an average one in Paris, France? Is an 80-hour workweek in NYC truly superior than a 4-hour workweek in Kosice, Slovakia? Everything is relative.

Nobody is to blame because we all live in a bubble that is created by our community, our profession, our circle of friends, and even by the entertainment and content we consume. Life can be beautiful in wonderful in NYC, London, and Paris...but it can also be beautiful and full of endless possibilities in Madison, Wisconsin or Kosice, Slovakia.

Your life has value when you have found a place that feels like home and when your days are filled with the balance that works for you. Life is beautiful when it is filled with love, with joy, with ideas, desires, adventures, successes, and failures. Life is exciting when it is filled with the growth of new experiences, interesting tastes, new sounds, challenging ideas, and open or honest relationships. Life has meaning when you create something that is truly yours. Life is filled with contentment when you earn enough money to stop worrying and start living. All of this is possible, wherever you happen to live.

My point is that it isn't where you live that defines you and gives your life value, it is how you live. Life is (also) elsewhere.

Mark Manney is the founder of “I am” by Infobeing (www.infobeing.com) (mark.manney@infobeing.com).

Am I a manic depressive, bi-polar freak?

These past few weeks spent traveling and on the beach have given me time to think (probably too much time to think).  I've made some very difficult, painful discoveries about myself and I think that what I have to say might be interesting to others like me.

Some days I find myself in an absolutely exuberant state of inspiration and brilliance.  On those days, everything works -- relationships, creativity, work, and everything else I engage in.  I am full of energy and, when I let that energy shine into the world, life is beautiful.  I hold onto this version of me as my self-identity.  This is the identity that I attempt to project to the world.  But it isn't the full truth about who I am.

The problem is that I am never able to sustain the inspired state of being beyond a few days.  After some time, I find myself burning-out or maybe just becoming too influenced by the depressing state of things in my life or in the world.  I start worrying about money.  I start to feel the burden of my inability to achieve everything I set out to achieve.  I withdraw from relationships, keeping everything inside.  On my worst days, I go through life with a negative attitude and offer those who love me very little emotionally.  I get depressed.

This is my normal cycle.  The only question is how extreme these extremes can become.  Maybe there's something wrong with me, or maybe this is how any creative, experiential person goes through life.  That is what I'm trying to figure out.  Is this simply normal and inevitable for a person like me?  If so, why do we pretend otherwise?

Is it possible for anyone to maintain an inspired, bliss-filled, exuberant state indefinitely?  I don't think so.  If you allow yourself to enter into a state of feeling fully-alive, it is absolutely inevitable that at some point you will come-down.  That feeling of coming-down, when compared with the feeling of being fully-alive, will always feel like depression.

People like me accept the world not as it is; rather, we see it the way we want to see it.  We try to find beauty where we can, we chase moments of bliss where they can be found, and we take risks to achieve our dreams.  To live freely and openly is to inevitably live somewhat recklessly.  We end up facing more judgment, negative consequences, painful failures, and disappointments than most people.  The natural consequence of bringing a flash of inspiration into the world is that "reality" hits back like a cold shower.

The great ideas we chase are often completely rejected or they fail miserably.  The inspired works of art we create are often criticized or, worse yet, ignored.  The relationships in which we invest our energies often fail to meet our needs in return.  On top of that, we all face financial / economic realities, we get older, people around us pass away...life happens.  And, when life does happen, we feel it more severely than most because oftentimes we are coming-down from a state of being that is really fucking great.  We know how great life can be because we touch it, feel it, experience it all the time.  But nothing lasts forever.  It goes in cycles.

My conclusion: all of this is natural and completely unavoidable.  Nobody who attempts to be or do anything extraordinary can experience life any other way.  To avoid these ups and downs is to live in a way that isn't worth living at all.  

Still, there are things we can do to make it better.  I find that, when I am taking care of my health (eating well on the slow-carb diet, exercising, not drinking too much, and getting enough sleep), then my low-points are not as low.  Also, my wife and daughter bring a great deal of stability and contentedness into my life and keep me sane.  My highs and lows simply aren't as extreme because they are put into the context of this amazing, loving relationship and the responsibilities that come with it.  Finally, I find that it is really important to be a generalist; to pursue many different passions and interests at once.  You can't invest all of your hope, dreams, and expectations into one thing or you could crash in a really big way.

In the end, I don't regret how I live or how I am.  I think back on the overwhelming number of experiences I've had and wouldn't change anything.  My somewhat ridiculously high hopes for the future get me out of bed each day.  That said; I also know that it isn't easy to love me, to live with me, or to understand me.  I don't mean to hurt or disappoint anyone.  This is just how I am and, like all of us, I'm doing the best I can.

Mark Manney is the founder of “I am” by Infobeing (www.infobeing.com) (mark.manney@infobeing.com).

The great revolution

The great revolution will come when people simply decide to do exactly what they want to do.

We are told that we are free.  Yet, from the youngest age, we are forced into educational institutions that are designed only to produce obedient behaviors and conformist thinking.  It isn't that we aren't hungry to learn by nature, but true learning isn't something that flows from being locked-up in some institution from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each day of our precious, young lives.  This educational system takes away our passions and our individuality in order to prepare us for an adult life that is even worse.  But alternate educational models are emerging.  I will be exploring everything as my daughter starts school in a few years.

When we finally survive our school years, we stare into the abyss of a job market that should terrify anyone.  If young people do find a job, it certainly pays too little.  What today's jobs ask of us is nothing short of everything.  We waste all of our days doing everything but what we would choose to do if we were free.  We work because we are scared.  In return, we are paid just enough (maybe) to find a place to live, buy food, and transportation.  Oh, and then we can try to enjoy some leisure activities with whatever energy we are left with after a work week that leaves us depleted physically, spiritually, and emotionally.  All the while, we worry about debt, health care, our children's education, and so much more.  It would be silly for me to argue any further about how shitty the job market is.  In Europe, in particular, massive numbers of young people are choosing not to work normal jobs because they are refusing to accept it.

For those of us who do accept it, this is how we live.  Days drag on like years while the years somehow fly by.  We desperately find ways to cope with an entire reality that is, by any measure, unacceptable.  We are screaming inside as our hopes and dreams are lost.  When we walk the path we were told to aspire to, we are stripped of all that is good and beautiful as the true potential within each of us fades away and ultimately dies.  This is the path we are directed toward.  This is what the corporate-controlled world wants for us because it is good business for them.  I want you to know that all of it is entirely unnecessary.  There is a different way.

For most of my life, I walked this conventional path as well as anyone.  At age 30, I left it forever.  I won the battle with my inner-voices of fear.  I started doing what I wanted to do.  I want everyone to know that you, yourself, can start a revolution by doing nothing other than by doing what you want to do.  This revolution doesn't happen overnight, but it can happen if you shift your thinking and change the path you're on.

I know that you have interests and you have some sort of skills and talents.  So you have value.  When you find a way to get paid for what you are good at, you will earn a better living than by doing only what you are told to do.  Ultimately, you will end up making more income than you do today by working only a few hours a day.  Anyone can do this.  I highly recommend reading the 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss.  I began living this way years before the book came out, but his entire approach and philosophy puts all of this into focus.  It will change your life.

As you begin to free-up more time and grow your income, you start to rediscover the person you are.  The goal isn't leisure.  The purpose is not to sit on some beach forever (only until you are bored).  As you discover your freedom, you do more of what excites you.  What do you so badly want to to do or to become?  It will haunt you until you do it...so just get it over with.   Turn your dreams and fantasies into realities.  If you like the reality, hold onto it.  Otherwise move on.  But if you don't experience something you badly want, you will never grow beyond that dream.  Experience is the process of becoming more than you are today.

Why do we keep waiting for a revolution when it is right there within our reach?   We have the power.  We have laptops, we have smart phones, and we have infinite imagination.  While your personal revolution can start tomorrow (as it did for me at age 30), the real break-through will happen when we collectively realize our power to live as we want to.  We don't need to drive to work at some corporation to earn a living.  I have spent the past 10 years inventing a system that will revolutionize the way we live and work.  I am starting the process of raising funding and bringing-in the right partners to build what will become an alternate economy on-line.  Opposite of today's corporate economy, this will be a people economy -- where we are everything we need.  

This system will connect people based what we want.  It is a more efficient form of capitalism whereby we quickly and easily meet all the right people to exchange with and work with just as we also meet all the right people to help us fulfill our hopes, dreams, and fantasies.  I know it will work and I know it is the ultimate purpose of my life to launch this revolution.  

Who am I to attempt this?  I am a musician, writer, entrepreneur, an expert in sales, and so much more.  All of these aspects of my being will continue as I also move in the direction of making this idea a reality.  I want everyone to live as I have over these past years, but even better.  This system will revolutionize the world because, finally, we can be everything we need.  We don't need to fight anyone to win this revolution, we just need to do what we want to do.  Anything worth doing also involves connecting with others.  So we need a better system to connect us with the right people.

So this is my big, revolutionary idea that I will move forward with as fast as possible.  But, in truth, there's no reason to wait for the revolution.  Work hard doing what you are good at (or want to become good at) and find people who will pay you for it.  Do it on your terms.  Work the hours you want to.  Or find a job and work from home (3 hours a day not 9).  Or travel the world and find odd jobs along the way.  There are options.

All of us are free, so why do we continue listening to the echos of teachers, parents, friends, bosses, or the pundits on TV.  Why watch films that steal our imagination by presenting a false picture of normalcy?  Reality is, indeed, what we make of it.  We are free to do what we want with our time, our relationships, our thoughts, our words, our art, and our experiences.  Hard work is necessary and good, but we have to direct that hard work toward something we want.  This is the great revolution.  It will change everything as today's institutions begin crumbling.  

I am surrounded by youth.  In my 4-year-old daughter, I see the potential of life before it gets muted by self-serving institutional agendas.  What if this unique happiness, passion, and desire to learn...what if it could be nurtured and developed properly?  What could she become after the revolution?

  Ella

Also, as I spend time with the guys in my band and many other 20-somethings, I clearly see their value and potential.  Yet I see many young people working in jobs that require none of their best skills or talents.  Worse yet, many young people are choosing a life of dependency or poverty.  It doesn't have to be this way.  

We can believe in ourselves, take our freedom, and with everything we are...just do what we want.  Imagine.

Mark Manney is the founder of “I am” by Infobeing (www.infobeing.com) (mark.manney@infobeing.com).

The living-dead and the fully-alive

To be oneself is to express one’s individuality and eccentricity without shame.  It is to know that, as a well-meaning person, there’s nothing wrong with what you are saying, doing, and being as long as it excites you and makes you feel alive. 

The excitement that is stirred-up inside of us in a stimulating conversation, in a lover’s kiss, on a walk to a beautiful beach, or in a work of art is nothing other than nature nudging us toward the path we are supposed to walk.  We feel pulled in certain directions simply because those are the right directions!

Outside of our necessary work and responsibilities, life should not feel so boring and dull.  Conversations should not come with such great effort.  Impulses to do, to say, or to create should not be stifled for any reason – not for acceptance and not even for love.  Most of us have become so well-adjusted to the inevitability of feeling stifled that we have come to accept it.  Yet, to accept it is to accept a state of living death.

We live among the living dead.  There are the people in our lives who bore us and who return nothing in exchange for the generous offer of our time and energy.  We care about and love these people partially for what we see in them (or what we want to see in them).  We bend and adjust who we are and what we do.  We so carefully monitor ourselves in order to earn their acceptance.  Yet, when we actually earn that acceptance, we feel no reward and we are left only with exhaustion.  In a state of  boredom and exhaustion, we offer nothing and have no non-economic value.

The extent to which a person is living dead is the extent to which they offer nothing.  There is nothing in their words but a muddled-up echo of the establishment media, the corrupt governments, and other self-serving institutions.  To live among the living dead is to attempt to say and do, in practical terms, nothing at all.  The unspoken and unarticulated ideal, which is unknowingly held so dearly by the living dead, is to say, to express, and do nothing.  The purpose of their lives is to leave the world just as it was...to leave the world as though they, themselves, never existed at all.  So our definition of “living dead” is complete.  What do we do about it?  We let nature work.

The burden is not on us, we the fully alive, to carefully select the people in our lives.  We need make no decision.  No effort at all is required to change the people we love and care about.  We need not beg or plead for them to become more like us.  We simply need to live openly and according to our nature.  We simply need to openly follow the path that excites us and makes us feel alive.  The choice is actually theirs to make.  The people in our lives need to decide whether to accept us for who we are.  If they cannot, they will make the decision to disengage.  In doing so, we can be grateful because our time and energy is freed-up to become fully alive and to live among the fully alive.

May we all find the courage to follow the path of that which excites us; even as we whole-heartedly and willingly take-on all of life’s responsibilities, challenges, and burdens.  Life can be exciting, beautiful, and simply great.

Mark Manney is the founder of “I am” by Infobeing (www.infobeing.com) (mark.manney@infobeing.com).

American Addict

"America represents 5% of the world’s population but consumes 50% of the world’s prescription pills and over 80% of the world’s prescription narcotics; this is NOT a coincidence."  This is a quote from the film American Addict.  A narcotic is any drug that affects mood or behavior.  Examples of legal narcotics include Prozac, Ridalin, Valium, or any pain-killer.  Americans turn to these drugs for every problem they have and every discomfort they feel.  In fact, a recent study shows that up to 70% of Americans take prescription drugs.  This has a lot to do with how completely fucked Americans are, both as individuals and as a society.

How can it be that anyone actually believes drugs can solve their problems?  Do we turn to illegal drugs like Heroin or Cocaine with a legitimate expectation that doing so will help us work through problems or "balance our brain chemistry"?  Why do we lie to ourselves that legal narcotics are any different?  The simple answer is that we are foolish enough to trust a health care system that lies to us for profit.  Or maybe it just seems easier to go for the quick fix than to do what it would actually require to solve problems.   

Despite what psychiatrists, physicians, and direct-to-consumer drug advertisements tell us, drugs are not the way to solve problems.  Once upon a time, when a teenager or young college student was dealing with angst, he might try to work through these feelings by reading philosophy or literature.  Maybe he would put on some loud music or go to a party.  If that didn't work, he might actually decide to make some changes!  Maybe he would quit a job, maybe travel, maybe change majors or go into a new profession.  

But people on narcotics end up muting their personalities, confusing their thinking, and lessening the potential of their lives in a desperate attempt to cope.  People on narcotics not only become sick and often die from the habit, they end up living lives that fall short of their full potential.

Everything I am and everything I have become is directly related to my feelings of angst, pain, anxiety, longing, and depression.   When I entered the corporate world after University, I fell into a deep depression.  Rather than taking Prozac, I turned to art and beauty for comfort.  I ended up becoming a huge music fan.  As a result of becoming a music fan, I eventually became a songwriter.  Today, when I pick up a guitar and play something...when I write a song...when I get on a stage...the only antidepressant I need is music.  I know that antidepressants would have kept me from feeling anything strong enough to lead me down this path...this path of becoming

Those years in the gray, corporate cubicle in Seattle were the most depressing of my life.  People close to me suggested that I consider antidepressants (which, of course, any professional would have prescribed).  I sought comfort in truth instead.  This led me down a fascinating path of discovery about how our political and economic system really works.  While these truths initially led me into an even deeper depression, I still somehow found comfort in truth.  I began to realize that I wasn't crazy and I wasn't fucked up.  It is the world that is no longer meant for healthy human beings.  It is the system that is fucked.  In a real and profound way, I started to free myself from so many of the tentacles of this cancerous system in which we live.  This journey would have never happened if I had chosen to numb myself with antidepressants.

The depression I felt during those years was extraordinarily painful, but it was emotion that guided me toward the path I was meant to take.  I chose not to medicate myself in order to cope with the unacceptable; rather, to change the unacceptable by continuing to seek that which was desirable.  In the years that followed, I moved to Europe, wrote books, recorded albums, performed, met amazing people, and spent a lot of time in places I never thought I would see.  I have prospered and, more importantly, I have not been depressed.  Actually, my life of experience has left me extraordinarily happy and satisfied.  No, I'm not happy every day...of course not.  I get sad, depressed, agitated, sick, and exhausted just like everybody else does.  But I know that these are the feelings that will nudge me toward some kind of progress.  When I feel that everything is fucked up, I change everything and make progress.  That's how it is supposed to work!  That's why nature has given us these feelings!  Only a fool or coward would attempt to kill these feelings with drugs.

The only way to solve our problems is to change ourselves and change our lives.  To use drugs in order to cope is to remain stuck in a situation that is not acceptable.  Only when our pain and suffering becomes severe enough do we find the courage and strength to follow our intuition and start down the path of becoming. 

Pharmaceutical companies are powerful players in a cancerous system that wants us stuck as servants to the ugly machine of capitalist destruction.  When we take what they are offering, we do not get better.  Instead, we suffer enormous side-effects just to cope for a few hours (until we take the next pill).  Those pills make us physically sick as they kill our emotions, deaden our instincts, change our natural appetites and drives, and make us do something as crazy as learning to accept the unacceptable.  Not to mention, hundreds of thousands of people die from prescription drug overdoses every year (think Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, and Marylyn Monroe).  

When it comes to our emotional pain, the truth is that we must reject all medicine and psychiatry completely.  The solutions to our problems are to be found in the brilliance, beauty, and possibility of the world around us.  The solutions are to be found in love, art, intellectualism, and experience!  Happiness is to be found in that which excites us!  So let's flush the pills down the toilette so that we may continue down nature's path of becoming.  

Mark Manney is the founder of “I am” by Infobeing (www.infobeing.com) (mark.manney@infobeing.com).

The Empire of Fake

I spent the whole last week visiting family in Wisconsin.  While I have valued the time with my parents and brother, a week in Wisconsin is a vivid reminder of all the reasons I left this Empire of Fake.

In the past week, there were a few moments of peace and simplicity; writing a song sitting in a sunny field, jogging through the corn fields, eating corn on the cobb at a small-town festival.  Those were moments of escape into something that felt more human.  During the rest of my stay, I have felt forced into a form of cloudy non-existence.  I have slept-walked through a branded system of emptiness, thoughtlessness, and of compliance.  My frustration, my disgust, my entire way of thinking is something that is completely foreign in this land of sheep-walkers.  This Empire of Fake is ruled by a form fascism that is designed to destroy our humanity and make us as fake as the system itself.

In this Empire of Fake, all thought has been washed away with sugary soda, diet soda, or watery beer.  Feeling has been choked by moist, fruit-flavored muffins and expensive cheeseburgers.  Experiences have been replaced by brands which tower high above us on enormous signs by sprawling parking lots.  These familiar brands offer us something to do, promise us new feelings, laughter, or memories.  But even these memories are not real because they are not our own.  Fake memories have been implanted into us through obnoxious, persistent advertising.  So we throw what dollars we have left at this black hole of commercialism as though we are trying to plug a damn that is leaking nothing short of our humanity.  All the while, we feel nothing.  We get dumber, fatter, poorer, and older.  In this Empire of Fake, we teach our children nothing because we have no wisdom to offer.

I say "we" because, even though I have escaped this horrible place in my life, I have been unable to escape it while I am here.  I'm spending the weekend in Wisconsin Dells with family.  "The Dells" is touted as the "Waterpark capital of the world" and is Wisconsin's best attempt at a resort town.  I'm sitting on the balcony of an expensive hotel and am looking down on an endless parking lot.  It is an unusually warm, summery day in early September...but we spent the morning in an indoor waterpark because all of the outdoor "activities" are "closed".  But are they closed?  Could we not walk by the lake?  Could we not float down the river in an inner-tube?  Sure we could, but that's not why we have come here.  Realness would feel too strange, too foreign, too impossible to even suggest.  The truth is that we ought not have driven two hours, spent hundreds of dollars, packed our luggage and cars for this.  For what?

This morning was spent at an indoor water park so loud that we had to shout just to communicate.  We floated around a fake "lazy river" with fake rocks meant to look like the real rocks on the real river not far away outside.  There was no sunshine, there were no smells, no birds chirping, no wind blowing through the trees, and no crickets.  Unlike a real river, however, there were lifeguards at each turn.  It was nearly as safe as doing nothing at all.  Interestingly, there is a real river that runs right by my parents house.  Yet everyone insisted that we come here.

The Wisconsin Dells is all about fake.  Theme restaurants, theme parks, even the stone at the entrance of this hotel is plastic.  My 6-year-old nephew pointed this out.  Maybe he thought it was cool.  Fake is cool.  Real is boring.  Except that it isn't.  I want that which is real.  I wish I had the skill or the courage to lead others toward that which is real.

 But here, in this Empire of Fake, it is clear that I am one of a few.  We cannot voice a perspective strong enough to compete with the fake.  We cannot bring back to life people that have been lost to illusions, to toxic pills, to toxic food, and to toxic entertainment.  Synthetic has defeated real.  It is a population that is simply gone, and unfortunately I must leave if I wish to escape it.

Mark Manney is the founder of “I am” by Infobeing (www.infobeing.com) (mark.manney@infobeing.com).

Creating something fresh and new

To create something fresh requires that you seek out, delete, and destroy everything that feels stale.

Whether in music, writing, fashion, film, business, or problem-solving...the goal is to be innovative and to make something new.  Even when you produce something of the highest quality, it will not be valued unless it also feels fresh and new.  But in pushing things forward and innovating, you are helped along by the process of nature.  You are helped along by evolution itself.  Your audience will be ignited and they will care.  That reaction will be a natural expression of their nature.

To create something fresh requires a certain mind-set.  You have to remain constantly critical.  You also have to ask others to openly critique what you create and trust their opinion when they say it is uninteresting or unoriginal.  To create something fresh and new requires listening to your inner-voice, your intuition, and it also requires that you are up-to-date on what's going on in the world.  You need to stay current and you need people around you who are current.

When you fail to create something that feels fresh, new, and exciting, your work fails to become relevant.  But, to the extent that you achieve it...that's when you find that the world makes room for you.

I want to thank the guys in my band for helping me to understand this prior to going into the studio earlier this year.

Mark Manney is the founder of “I am” by Infobeing (www.infobeing.com) (mark.manney@infobeing.com).

Interview with Floyd Bartholomew

Click on the gray box below to listen to this episode of the Abscondo podcast:

Abscondo Podcast - 50 - Chasing Dreams interview with Floyd

Floyd is an interesting philosophy student from Utah who has appeared on the podcast before (episode 34).

Subscribe to the Podcast on iTunes or in the new Podcast app

Mark Manney is the founder of “I am” by Infobeing (www.infobeing.com) (mark.manney@infobeing.com).

Top 10 reasons why Americans can be thankful they don't live in Slovakia

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day in the USA. That means a rare day off from work, a huge meal, maybe a little football on TV, and a day to think about everything to be thankful for.

I've been in Europe for so long that I'm not even celebrating the holiday this year.  I guess there's not much point in a holiday if you don't have the day off from work -- especially when the holiday is mostly about cooking! 

But, since it is Thanksgiving, I decided to put together a Top 10 list of reasons that Americans can be thankful that they don't live in Slovakia.

Reason # 1 - Bigger is better!

Big big mac2010 Chevy Suburban

Why would you want to eat normal portions of food (and stay a normal body weight) when you could eat an enormous portions?  Americans can be thankful that restaurants "get it": bigger is better!

Americans can also be thankful that they don't have to drive smaller cars that are easier to park & consume less fuel.  What fun is that?  The same is true for houses.  What good is a house or apartment that is small enough to actually find your family in?  How ridiculous would it be to call out "honey?" and actually get a response from the next room!  And what fun is cleaning if you only have a few rooms to deal with?

America is huge.  Everything in America is huge.  Americans can be thankful that they can live such big lives in a huge country.

 

Reason # - 2 weeks of vacation per year is more than enough!

IMG_9632

What's the point of time off from work anyway?  Americans can be thankful that they have 6-7 holidays per year and 2 weeks of vacation.  Many Americans don't even use the time off they are given! 

Americans can be thankful they don't live in Slovakia, where they'd have dozens of holidays per year and 4-5 weeks of vacation. 

 

Reason # 3 - More expensive healthcare is better healthcare!

Finding_Ways_to_Finance_Healthcare_Costs_and_Expensive_Medical_Bills_416_646581139.jpg

The average cost of health insurance for an American family reached $20,000 this year.  Worse yet, this cost doesn't even cover 100% of the health care expenses of actually getting treatment! 

This ridiculously expensive system leaves millions without any health care, millions more working just to pay for health care, and a nation of people living in fear not just about their health...but about the cost of their health!

Does this system somehow produce better results?  Can it be justified at all?  Well, Americans can be grateful that they get what they pay for, right?  I'm not so sure. 

In Slovakia, as is the case across Europe, you walk into a doctor when you are sick, get treatment, and pay basically nothing.  Kind of sucks, huh?

 

Reason # 4 - More expensive education is better education!

Student Loan Debt

 

Americans can be grateful that they have the opportunity to "work their way through college" in pursuit of a dream.  Sure, when they gradate they face $10,000's or $100,000's of debt...but it's the American dream, right?

Americans can be thankful, on this Thanksgiving, that they don't have to settle for free university (like in Slovakia and across Europe).

 

Reason # 5 - You'd rather be left alone!

548624_10151188229819780_1533062213_n

Slovaks, like most Europeans, care so much about family and traditions that they often face the terrible obligation of having to spend their time eating a huge meal together, drinking too much, talking and laughing, sometimes even dancing and singing!

Most Americans, on the other hand, can barely tolerate this one day of Thanksgiving with their family.  Americans can be thankful that, when Thanksgiving is over and the minimal conversation over football comes to an end, you can go home and be left alone once again.

 

Reason # 6 - Why walk when you can sit?

New Years Day 2009 Car_main_0

Americans can be thankful that they don't have to walk around town to get anything done or to meet friends for a coffee or drink.  Why walk when you can drive?

 

Reason # 7 - Work is all that really matters anyway!

Corporate baby

American mothers can be thankful that, after the birth of a baby, they can choose to take up to 12 weeks away from work (most of that unpaid).  Why would they need 2-3 years of paid time off, like in Europe?  Why does a child need his or her mother anyway?

Americans can be thankful because they understand that work is what matters most.

 

Reason # 8 - Every need, desire, shortcoming, or problem can be fixed with a pill!

Prozac
Americans can be thankful to the pharmaceutical industry for their health and happiness.  About half of Americans are taking prescription drugs.  This overworked, stressed-out, unhealthy population is popping endless pain pills, anti-depressants, pills for sexual disfunction, for anxiety, for lowering cholesteral...then there are other pills for dealing with the side-effects of all those pills! 

 

Reason # 9 - Culture is obsolete!

Festival

Americans can be thankful that they don't have to deal with those un-cool, out-dated notions of culture and tradition.  After all, we live in modern times.  All we really need are nice cars, big houses, and never-ending content streaming from the latest gadgets.  If sometimes that isn't enough, we can always go to the Mall on a Saturday afternoon or go eat some completely predictable food from a chain restaurant.

 

Reason # 10 - It has been proven that America is the best country on Earth!

Tea_Party_Protest,_Hartford,_Connecticut,_15_April_2009_-_080

I think that Reason # 10 is sort of beyond dispute.  So that settles it.

Mark Manney is the founder of “I am” by Infobeing (www.infobeing.com) (mark.manney@infobeing.com).

Our 3-tier class system

Whenever we talk of concepts like social classes, we do so only in terms of wealth or income.  The upper class is rich, the middle class lives comfortably but struggles, and the poor live in hopeless squalor.  But is there any meaning or purpose to such analysis? 

The problem with this type of analysis is that we don't look at ourselves.  We aren't honest about where we fit and how our own thoughts and behaviors put us where we are.  Instead, we conceive of society's failures and accomplishments as something external to ourselves.  This kind of analysis leaves out the part that might actually be useful.  In fact, any intellectual exercise which ignores the possibility of self-analysis and self-understanding is a waste of time and energy.  That's because the only thing we have any control over in this world is ourselves -- what we do, how we think, and how we react to what happens to us

My search for truth has me observing and trying to make sense out of society.  I have lived in, participated in, and functioned in many different cultures in many different countries.  I have noticed that we seem to be living in a 3-tier class system.

The first is the Ruling Class.  The Ruling Class is proportionately small in terms of numbers, but they control the vast majority of wealth and resources.  The Ruling Class exists above and outside of the rules that govern the rest of us.  In fact, they create the rules that govern the rest of us (yet they do not apply these rules to themselves).  They write the laws, they print the money that the rest of us work so hard for, they almost fully control what the rest of us foolishly call "democracy", and they control the resources. 

Most of the Ruling Class are born into the Ruling Class, while some of them enter through the secret societies of Harvard, Yale, or other elite universities.  If you happen to be a member of the Ruling Class, you know you are a member of the Ruling Class.  If you are past University age and still don't know for sure, then you never will become a member.  If you are a member, you have been taught that your loyalty is only to other members of the Ruling Class.  You take care of each other and your primary purpose is to maintain your position.  Your power is limitless.  You feel entitled to extract wealth from the other classes and from nature itself.  In fact, you feel morally justified in anything you do because, after all, you are the elite.  You deserve it because you are part of the club.  You may be, in fact, stealing from the Productive Class and ruining the lives of the Dependent Class, but you reason that you are above them and superior to them, so it doesn't really matter.  Everything you are and everything you do is justified because this is your natural place in society.  You are the elite.  Occasionally you do something charitable or just, and just as the Ruling Class has done through the ages...you expect your peasants to be grateful.

Your fear is that things get out of control.  You have to keep order, you have to keep people satisfied to at least a minimum level so they don't rise up against you.  You have to keep them believing in the system you oversee, or at least make sure they are too afraid to do anything about it, or else it could all fall apart and you will have failed.

Next, there is the Productive Class.  The Productive Class is larger than the Ruling Class, but still a proportionately small group of people who invent, build, create, and maintain much of what we all enjoy.  This is an educated, skilled, strategic group of people who create much of the value that the other two classes benefit from.  If you are a member of the Productive Class, you understand that you get paid based on the amount of value you create for society.  Your pay is proportionate to the extent that you create something useful for lots of people, something enjoyable, something practical, or something desirable.  You also earn a living by serving the Ruling Class...by helping them extract wealth and by helping them keep society in order. 

You serve the interests of the Ruling Class even though you do not fully share in the benefits.  Your income and wealth is only a small portion of that which you create (in other words, you are exploited).  But you are alright with being exploited because, you reason, that's just how the world works.  You don't want to rock the boat because you are trying to enjoy your ride on the boat.  You don't feel entitled to more; rather, you feel proud of what you have accomplished through hard work and merit.  You don't dwell on what should be, you are grateful for what is.  If there is more to be had, you'll get it through your own abilities.

If you are a member of this class, your life will be rewarding and you will find a great deal of satisfaction.  These are the highly-successful entrepreneurs, the celebrities who boast a life-long career of meaningful and high-quality work.  These are the people who bosses love because they always earn their paycheck.  You are self-sufficient, capable, and will always be able to satisfy your material needs because you are always going to be useful to others.  You will also find a great deal of satisfaction in your mastery of specific skills and in your accomplishments.  You will, however, be frustrated with other people around you who seem not to do anything productive, who always seem to want something from you, and who may even seem lazy.

Finally, there is the Dependent Class.  This class is largest in number but poorest in terms of resources and wealth.  If you are a member of the Dependent Class, you feel that you should be rich, you should be famous, and you should be given everything you want.  Your sense of self-worth is strong but has little connection to reality.  Much of the Dependent Class is employed, but mostly in jobs which they find frustating and unacceptable.  They get paid a small amount for the relatively little value created through work that they don't much care about.  The Dependent Class feels that their employer owes them more money and benefits, that the government also owes them, and they adore the Ruling Class because the Ruling Class seems to have everything they should have. 

The Dependent Class wants to be rich and famous without any patience or effort.  They want it all, now!  They want to be discovered and in extremely rare cases they are, but their celebrity or success is short-lived.  Not only is their 15 minutes of fame fleeting, it is meaningless and has little long-lasting value to others.  They want to be actors, models, rock stars, and reality TV stars for no particular purpose.  If it doesn't happen, it is by no fault of their own.  Possessing few relevant skills or acceptional traits, putting forth only the minimum amount of work, few members of the Dependent Class realizes his or her dreams. 

These are the young women who want to marry rich, the drifters, the unproductive artists, the bored employees, the partying rich kids, the university students who don't study, the unemployed, the guy at the bar every night, or the guy who moves on the latest get-rich-quick scheme as easily as changing shoes.  In Europe, these are the guys scheming to get EU funds (rather than just starting a business that creates value).  The Dependent Class complains that life isn't fair, just as they frustrate the Productive Class with their impracticality and ineffectiveness.  But the Dependent Class is, in fact, useful to the other classes because they make eager consumers, they are the die-hard fans, and the true believers.  The Dependent Class is the consumer of culture and, aside from that, they do all the low-value jobs that nobody else wants to do.  In exchange, they are fed religion, sports, and reality TV in order to make their present-day reality seem bearable.

The whole system works because the lower two classes hate each other.  The Dependent Class sneers at the Productive Class because they are suckers, sell-outs, and they just don't get it.  The Productive Class hates the Dependent Class and tells them to "get a job".  Meanwhile, the Ruling Class could care less...as long as both classes continue to obey and worship them.  Everything is fine as long as they are able to keep everything in order and continue to rule, to exploit, and to control the rest of us.  The Ruling Class is fine if the lower two classes are pointing fingers at each other, because at least they aren't pointing fingers at them.

This heirarchy exists in every country of the world (though the relative size of each class varies slightly country-by-country).  The interesting question is: where do you mostly fit?  Are you part of the Productive Class or the Dependent Class?  Which class do you consciously want to be a part of?  How might you change your thoughts and behaviors to make that a reality?

I'm not suggesting that a person's class accurately describes a person's worth.  Any discussion of class is only a discussion of economics.  Every person on this planet is a unique individual, possessing his or her unique value and identity entirely outside of social status or economics.  The degree that we actualize our authentic selves is the degree to which we transcend class and circumstance.  So this analysis of our 3-teir class system is only an analysis of exactly that...it has only to do with our economic standing and how our thoughts, beliefs, and actions affect it.  Your actual worth, as a human being, has little to do with your class.  Sometimes truth can be harsh, other times it can be depressing.  In this case it is both.  But is it still not worth considering?

Mark Manney is the founder of “I am” by Infobeing (www.infobeing.com) (mark.manney@infobeing.com).