Monday, December 24, 2012

Goals versus Rewards

We were once a species that individually performed many functions that gave us direct access to the items necessary for our survival. Now we have been reduced to repeating one or two simple tasks to acquire a unit of exchange for the many necessary items we must acquire.

If you look in the newspaper's entertainment section, it's full of simple stimulus rewards in exchange for currency. For your money you get to enthrall your sensory organs with novelty.

Is that life?

And what of social media on the Internet? It has become nothing more than a pick-and-share bin of visual and auditory novelty. Try to ask a question and get an answer on Facebook or Google+. At least LinkedIn has real interactive participation toward objectives. The key word is objectives.

Is the definition of "social" nothing more than psychosexual activity? Does not social media also entail working toward achieving goals? Besides LinkedIn, there is Meetup, but my experience with Meetup has been more social activity.

We have given our goals over to easy rewards. The cheap entertainment has replaced personal achievement. Only now after years of poverty do I realize what happened. Having time for long introspection on the meaning and outcome of consuming the social entertainment industry (i.e. bars, restaurants, theaters, shopping malls), I have down-shifted my perceived value of those simple rewards, and the foggy veil of hollow satisfaction has lifted.

Being denied the comfortable distractions of most people, I stand back and watch the herd with growing anxiety about the future of our species. The master with the best keys to jangle before the masses wins.

The biggest help toward gaining insight into this problem was "The End of Overeating" by David Kessler, and  "The Emotional Life of Your Brain" by Richard J. Davidson and Sharon Begley.

We have become conditioned to automatically respond to cues in the environment that lead us to repeat simple behaviors and achieve sensory satisfaction in the short-term, at the cost of our own personal achievements, health, savings and supply of resources.

I may only be speaking for those who are most susceptible to conditioning and stimulus in the environment. I have an eating disorder where I seek food as a substitute for an absent relationship; a relationship I am unable to achieve because of my anxiety. It works in a vicious cycle. My lack of a relationship diminishes my effort to set goals for myself. My lack of goals leaves me susceptible to environmental stimulation. Environmental stimulation leads me to food. Food leads me to obesity. Obesity contributes to my negative self-image which causes resistance to seek relationships.

Addiction arises out of one or more of these factors. I am genetically predisposed to having not enough dopamine to regulate my anxiety. It has nothing to do with the substance of choice, but the billion dollar industries and "non-profits" that feed off public ignorance regarding addiction don't want you to know that.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Subterfuge at Megabanks

Another word we the publicly educated rarely visit is Subterfuge: a strategy used to delay, distract, evade and eventually wear down one's opponent. In the world of banking, it appears the opponent is the customer.

One of my favorite websites is RipoffReport.com, where I do research on companies and individuals prior to making any contractual or financial commitments. On one of my news feeds I caught wind of someone who produced a video about their trouble with Bank of America. Customers who wanted to legally modify their bank loans after the housing bubble burst, are the victims of subterfuge that eventually forces the customers into foreclosure. Bank of America pulled out its last stop when it requested from a customer, a death certificate.

I went to Ripoffreport.com and produced a small chart showing the number of complaints about a handful of banks in the United States.


I wonder what it must be like to be customers for Megabanks. Before I moved across the country I did research to find small local banks instead.  I used a site called "MoveYourMoney." The original website no longer exists, but the Facebook page is still there. I find that disturbing.

The proliferation of complaints online about Bank of America alone makes me wonder if their current customers will be their last. Maybe they adopted their subterfuge tactics as part of their anti-fraud strategy, but they clearly act with impunity and won't stop or change on their own.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Hobo Chicken

Hobo Chicken coming to Walmart
Hobo is short for Homeward Bound, but everyone associates the meaning with regular transient homelessness and its accoutrements. "The chickens are coming home to roost" is a phrase recently resurrected in the scathing essay On The Justice of Roosting Chickens by Ward Churchill regarding the attacks on the World Trade Center, September 11, 2001.

Not to spoil the recipe of its namesake, Hobo Chicken represents the arrival of one's comeuppance in the form of just rewards, which could be construed as good or bad depending on your perspective.

If perhaps you are a national franchise such as HostessChic-fil-A or Papa John's Pizza, you have certain institutionalized character flaws that will invite Hobo Chicken, but Hobo Chicken has his sights set on a much larger prize, Walmart, and of all the times of the year, Black Friday of 2012.Target also faces Hobo Chicken.

This seems to be a growing trend. For decades people didn't have a choice but to accept lower wages, and because they accepted lower wages their living standards suffered, they had to shop for steeper and steeper bargains, trample over each other to get the last Cabbage Patch Kid or Pokemon. Now businesses are blaming the workers for accepting the lower wages. A Manpower representative in a Reuters interview called it a "wage scar caused by workers accepting lower wages," not that employers had anything to do with it.

The employers had little choice but to continue discounting their supply, because they don't have a second mirror that allows them to see the backs of their own heads, or they would see a target painted by who else, Hobo Chicken.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Savings or Social Engineering?

There are lots of suggestions about how to save your money at FeedThePig.org. The theory is, if you strictly follow the instructions on saving money, eventually you will have enough to start living a better lifestyle. Does that math really work? You must look beyond your normal perception of events to the long-term consequences of your behavior.

What would happen if you decided to do what you normally thought was the right thing and stopped buying foreign-made products? If you chose not to purchase something that was not made in your country, who would get hurt? The factory workers in another country, but also everyone involved in packaging, shipping, distribution, purchasing, displaying and selling at the destination, your own neighborhood. How likely would you be able to find a similar product that was made in your country? By now it would have been priced out of the market and made extinct, because everyone's a bargain shopper.

Let's pretend that everyone eating at restaurants decide to only order water as their beverage, skip the appetizers, and share one dessert like so many penny-pinching tipsters suggest. How much overhead does the restaurant charge for operating expenses on only the main course? Could the restaurant stay in business only on the profits from the main course? If not, what do you think would happen to the cost of the main course? Clearly the lack of interest in more expensive beverages, appetizers, and desserts for individuals would require that costs be shifted to the main course.

Cost redistribution by suggestion is one type of subtle market manipulation that occurs outside normal human narcissistic perception of reality. Some people proudly brag about saving twenty cents per gallon at the fuel pump, but they likely didn't think about the time and fuel they used driving to that particular station. The costs are actually the same or higher, they are just redistributed to you in a way you cannot perceive, clouded by distorted values that appear to be satisfied on an immediate level.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Introduction and the Purple Market.

It's the beginning of a new era for consumers. Food choices are increasingly becoming genetically modified, special interest lobbyists in Washington are seeking further deregulation of the food industry, including relaxing food labeling restrictions. On top of this, there is the call for "Tort Reform" which, if it actually happens, will relieve manufacturers and service providers of responsibility for the misbehavior of consumers who mishandle a product, like putting a cup of hot coffee between your legs while you drive.

The ultimate achievement would be complete laissez-faire capitalism. The only effective enforcement would be for patent and copyright violations, the rest would be "Caveat Emptor," buyer beware!

I have the impression that free-market capitalists presume that consumers are responsible enough to manage personal health and wealth. I don't know where I got this impression, perhaps the mass media, perhaps a school book, or perhaps the free-market capitalists own behavior at seeking laissez-faire status for the marketplace, but it's the wrong impression.

It's a deceptive argument to say that consumers are responsible, because we are not. We are creatures driven by our instincts and craven resistance to self-control. We are easily manipulated by our senses which drive our unconscious cravings.

Capitalists argue that supporters of government regulation use this human weakness to help the public rationalize increasing the size of government. The ulterior motivation, they argue, is to increase the size of government for the acquisition of "Political Capital" in the form of new patronage employment positions for campaign contributors or other forms of hidden political commerce.

Since red and blue, that represent Republicans and Democrats, makes purple, I'll call this the Purple Market because it knows no specific political affiliation. The purple market is a human condition of privilege, class distinction and dominance through unfettered government policy manipulation. Unfettered by willful public ignorance.

The purple armies that holds hostage the purple market, are the public sector unions. Looking at the European Union austerity measures that resulted from governments like Greece collapsing under the weight of union demands, it's clear that the Purple Market cannot be sustained.

The purple class is made up of all government employees, appointed officials, and politicians. The purple class is killing the rest of the economy through arbitrary cost-of-living increases and outrageous salaries that contributes to artificially driving inflation for the rest of us under-employed, unemployed, under-paid citizens who don't have any benefits.

Where did it all start? An irresponsible public turning their eyes away while politicians unnecessarily started wars, enacted new laws or created new bureaucracies in the aftermath of highly emotional and highly publicized events? An irresponsible public that chooses not to see the long term consequences of buying products made in China simply because they are cheaper? A public irresponsibly re-electing politicians based purely on name recognition, with no regard to past performance? A public that raises and educates its children on the notion of finding a job instead of creating jobs?

We consumers must start looking in the mirror, and making informed decisions. It's up to us to make government smaller by taking responsibility for ourselves and our dependents, and re-evaluating our expectations about those we think are above us in some strange, distorted social order.