Thursday, July 06, 2006

TRD101: Existential Angst

TRD101: Existential Angst

by Michael Maynard

July 7, 2006

After the role of God in human life and the detailed analysis of the leitmotifs used throughout the collected works of Britney Spears, the subject most discussed, debated and chronicled throughout time has been the questionnig of human existence.

How did the human species develop to populate this planet?

Are humans the only sentient life form on this planet? In the universe?

Does every life have a specific purpose, i.e. meaning, in its creation?

How do we know what our own specific purpose is?

If we do know what that specific purpose is, how do we know whether we fulfilled it?

Is there life after death and what criteria is used to judge what happens to us after our life ends?

Today, you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack. You may find yourself living in another part of the world. You may find your self listening to the Talking Heads instead listening to a talking head.

And you may be asking yourself the age-old question about your angst concerning all of the above, “Well, how did I get here?”

Yes, one of my majors in college was philosophy. My final philosophy class in my final semester concerned the works of the major German philosophers: Kant, Witgenstein, Hegel, Heidegger, etc. I spent 6 months reading Heidegger’s “Being and Time”, in the original German, as the final work of this class. If you ever need to start questioning why you exist, or would want to, spend 6 months reading any work of Heidegger. Heidegger makes rolling the rock back up the hill, only to see it roll back down again, a mirthful diversion.

One of the funniest lines I heard on this topic came from the senior aide to one of the most senior and powerful U.S. Senators. I had asked him about why Senators tend to be “long-winded” and cannot answer a simple question with a short direct answer. His response, “You have 99 people who believe they deserve to be members of the most exclusive and powerful club in the world and love to hear the sound of their own voice., and then you have Lincoln Chaffee who suffers from existential angst.”

Even though he’s a Republican, I immediately liked Lincoln Chaffee and was glad he was a Senator. Anyone who finds themself in the great deliberative political body, and actually deliberates about why and what is his purpose in being a Senator deserves to be there. Sure, Chaffee has to play the game in order to get some of his legislation passed and to be taken seriously by the senior senators, but he has frequently bucked the wrong-headed policies of the Bush Administration and the Republican Senate Leadership.

It is very unfortunate that his other 99 colleagues do not share his contemplative nature, because the Senate has increasingly become an irrelevant laughing stock. There is the foreign policy and financial sink hole that has become the Iraq war. The Bush Administration has broken laws in domestic spying and financial data gathering and analysis, and continue to act unchecked as if the Constitution and separation of powers do not matter.

The US economy is dramatically slowing. Interest rates are creeping higher and correspondingly, speculative real estate prices are dropping and credit-card fueled consumer spending is slowing. Gasoline prices remain at $3.00 per gallon and no program to reduce the dependence upon fossil fuels is in place.

Don’t go by the economic forecasts and pronouncements from this administration or as Lucy tells Charlie Brown, “Tell your statistics to shut up”. The unemployment rate is meaningless, since people who have exhausted their unemployment benefits stop being counted. Those who have taken lower-paying, often significantly lower paying jobs stop being counted, so there is no underemployment figures. Those who are working two and three jobs and are just getting by stop being counted so there are no economic hardship figures.

The real economic status figures to watch are the number of manufacturing jobs being created or lost and the inflation-adjusted real wage figures. Another 300,000+ manufacturing jobs were lost last year. Today’s news stated that service-sector employment, which had been growing at double digit rates, is also slowing. Construction spending had a major decline in May, so more decent paying jobs are going to be lost in the next few months.

So what issues are the Senators focusing upon? Passing flag-burning crime and banning gay marriage legislation that, if passed, would go through the process of becoming constitutional amendments.The national polls show the plurality of Americans against passing both pieces of legislation. The other major issue? Repealing the “death tax” - the taxes paid upon receipt of assets from someone else’s estate. This legislation affects only 300,000 of the already wealthy, who can afford high-priced estate attorneys and tax accountants who already devise new and unique ways to avoid the “death tax”. The country can’t afford to invest in industries to create new jobs or provide employment by repairing crumbling roads and building needed new interstate roads. But, according to the Senate, it can afford to let the wealthy become wealthier and still keep pouring more money into the sinkhole.

It’s time for the other 99 senators to have some existential angst, especially the senior Senator from Connecticut. Joe Lieberman announced today that if he’s defeated in the upcoming primary by his challenger, Ned Lamont, Lieberman will run for Senator as an independent party candidate. Lieberman is substantially behind Lamont in the latest polls. Given how little Lieberman has accomplished in the Senate, despite his seniority, and his continued, unblinking support for the Bush Administration’s actions in conducting the Iraq War, he should be feeling at least a little angst. Nor has Lieberman publically protested or challenged the latest round of right-wingnut legislative grandstanding. You’d think he’d understand why the voters from his state don’t support him.

But, no, that would mean he’d have to question why he’s been voted into office. After all, he’s a failed Vice Presidential candidate and then failed in the Democratic primaries to be nominated as the presidential candidate. Therefore, he belongs in the Senate because he’s one of the elite in the club.

Joe, go push your rock up a different hill. That’s where you belong.

TRD101 knows this: Once you start having a sense of entitlement to hold any position you have, especially a public position, you stop representing the interests of those you’re supposed to be serving, and just serving your own. Your existence is not a guaranteed lifetime contract.

And that is The Real Deal 101 for today, like it or not.

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© Copyright Michael Maynard, TRD101, July 2006.