Saturday, April 06, 2013


More reflecting (even obsessing) over the issue of helping each other.  Not particularly useful, only a bit of sorting.  You probably already thought of all this stuff.


1.  Basic physical existence: without these basics, the life of the creature is either ended or greatly diminished:  food, water, shelter, safety, clothing, meds.  This could be one person or it could be a group of persons, perhaps a large population caught in a catastrophe or in war.

2.  Epidemic (when something like disease is in outbreak, more than usual).  Pandemic  (when something has spread everywhere).  Syndemic (when pandemics are interweaving into a complex that reinforces itself with loops and expands throughout the demos, people -- often powered by simple poverty).

3.  Disease entities: microbes, viruses, parasites, vectors, mutations (cancer), malfunctions (diabetes).

4.  Conditions that cause damage: toxins, harsh weather, shortages of the basics like fuel or certain food elements (vitamins), bad water, no cleanliness, no sunlight.

5.  Brain failure in individuals
Failure to develop
Traumatic damage -- both physical and psychological (they interweave)
Psychological programming gone wrong’
Environmental (the village of cretins in China because of lack of iodine)
Social practices that defend brain trauma, i.e. football, boxing
Operator error
6.  Justice shortfalls
Allowing stigma and stereotype to interfere
Unjust laws
Lack of thorough procedure
Adversarial system

7.  Predatory human beings
Cooking the books
Blackmailing countries with commodities and meds


1.  Children
2.  Old people
3.  Those lacking social skills 
4.  Those lacking marketable skills
5.  Those with uncontrollable disorders and addictions
6.  the hurt and traumatized


1.  Believing that people who are vulnerable should be discarded, destroyed.
2.  Believing that predatory people should be discarded, destroyed.
3.  Letting people be discarded and destroyed daily and before our eyes.
4.  Personal insecurity and fear so heightened that people have no peripheral vision.
5.  Fear of change

Why help individuals?
Because you might need some help at some point in your life.  Infants who aren’t helped simply die.  Same with old people.  No one is born 21 years old with a college education in their backpack, and the only way to avoid the weakening of old age is to die young.

Why help groups?
Because none of us lives alone.  The aggregate fortunes of groups, whether ethnic, vocational, class-based, whatever their gender, interact to create our polyculture out of which eventually develops a kind of identity, a “person” ality made up of persons who develop the laws by which we must live.

Economically, what happens is determined by groups.  The foods on the store shelves are there because people will repeatedly buy them -- otherwise they are removed and no longer available.  The highways are drive-able because the great majority of drivers stay within practical parameters.  Groups produce complexity which offer niches where each person might find a way to survive comfortably.

How do we find out about groups?  Or individuals?   


A few days ago I heard a discussion of why the number of people receiving social security disability checks has quadrupled.  It has become clear that when ordinary welfare rolls were under pressure to clear out clients and people were forced to get training and jobs, some were moved over to disability.  Originally meant for the blind, the crippled, the physically unable to work, or possibly mentally unable to hold a job, the category became more and more extended until now it includes people who were disabled by their inability to conceive of themselves as “abled.”  

That’s one unintended consequence.  Another is that steady checks began arriving while supervision and social worker field visits diminished, because that’s how money was saved, by diminishing salaries and training for “support” workers.   A small, possibly family-based ecology grew up around the single mother, the aged parent, the blind grandfather or whoever else could get their feet under the table.  This little group might be unstable, but it might also settle into a pattern of working the system in order to keep their lives inside the circle of survival.  Since they tended to gravitate to the same neighborhoods, the many little circles became a culture, legitimizing whatever practices worked and hardening the barriers against the larger society that might not approve and might endanger the flow of checks.  Pretty soon it becomes justified by a political defense and demonstrations pointing to the incomes of the outrageously wealthy, who can be blamed but not affected, thus preserving the situation.


Corporations, particularly big pharmaceutical companies but also the many other intermediary sub-contractors that form to dispense federal money (including tribes), soon discovered that subsidies for meds or housing or insurance or security in housing projects would mean that prices could be raised with impunity.  The needy became pass-through devices to transmit federal money to profiting corporations.

One strategy is to identify a medical need, assure the public that a specific medicine (that they sell) will help this need so that the public will demand that the government subsidize it.  This strategy helps avoid what happens when prices are set at the amounts people can pay or are cost-based.  (It’s separate from the practice of paying competitors to stay out of the market or making tiny variations in existing meds in order to claim they are new, since previously they have lobbied-through legislative protection for new drugs.  This is called “evergreening.”)  In other countries governments and corporations, notably in India, have gone the other direction, lowering the prices so that money is made on quantities sold and by the improvement of social costs.

The constant training and equipping of soldiers for the many wars around the planet means that Soldiers of Fortune and contract armies have a steady supply of qualified employees (prepared on the public dime) and possibly weapons, etc. -- as well as the need for them, while escaping any civilian or govenmental oversight and basically arming corporations.  They may represent themselves as peacekeepers but they obey whoever pays the bills.  This violates the democratic principle that the People should oversee the military.  Private security firms are growing the US.

As we all learned during prohibition, if there is an irrepressible need and desire on the part of the citizenry, their search for satisfaction will soon mean alternative hidden economic systems whether for loans, drugs, diamonds, or sex objects.  Most bureaucratic attempts to identify and suppress these underground systems will only increase the demand and, as well, create another system of “revenooers” and “homeland security” bureaucrats while losing potential tax money from transparent citizen commerce.


In the end what has to change is society itself so that the shifting circumstances -- something as simple but boggling as the invention of the birth control pill or walking on the moon -- can be matched with new understandings of human beings and how to make lives not just more survivable, but also far more equitable than we seem able to manage now.  What both complicates and liberates the task is that so many cultures with many different and conflicting understandings of what human life means are now interacting and struggling over whose version will prevail.  The great advantage is that while they fight it out one way or another, they may not notice that some of us are quietly inventing an entirely new way to live and finding the ways to tell about it.

I sort of hesitate to make a recommendation that may push you into a for-profit enterprise, but the posts at have been pretty interesting.

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