March 17, 2014

Ponders



This, from Kevin Williamson's “End is Near” book, seems almost crazy if to be believed:
It would take very little for the twenty-first-century American to replicate the standard of living in the alleged golden age of the 1950s—the median income was only $10,000 a year in today’s dollars, meaning that a full-time job at the minimum wage today (with two weeks off every year) would produce an income in excess of the typical household income in the 1950s.
I guess it shows how poverty is so relative, relative to what others are consuming. The flip side of this factoid is if we Christians did live near 1950s levels we could do so incredibly more for churches and charitable causes.

I ran it by an econ-philiac and he said:
I’ve heard that before from the Cato institute. Standards of living are an apples to oranges comparison. You assume everyone has to have an iphone and 2 cars and viola, you have poverty. 
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Another fascinating read was still reading how train wreck'd Detroit came about. I suppose it's a confluence of issues, much like how the Roman Empire fell. The “gun”, to make an analogy, seems to have been the decline of the auto industry. The “trigger” was the African-American unrest and reverse racism, starting with the riots of '67. Williamson quotes Ghandi as saying any self-respecting country will prefer bad self-government to good government by a foreign power, and then adds that Detroit followed this dictum “but its motivating factor was racism, not nationalism.”

And the trigger for Detroit black racism appears to be 1940s-era white prejudice and police racism. The governor at the time wanted to build a housing project for black defense workers in an ethnically Polish neighborhood and there was an uproar in the white community.

From another book on Detroit, written by a Jew, there's an interesting take on the struggle between writing off people as simply products of their environment versus holding them accountable for their own actions.  Forgiveness is much easier when we simply ascribe faults to environmental factors even if it might be patronizing. But isn't there something positive to be said for ease of forgiveness (even at the possible expense of truth?), especially in light of the degradation of modern Detroit's misery (mostly caused by a lack of forgiveness)?  The author talks about a deep friendship with a black kid he knew named Charles and how Charles ended up betraying him:
I knew Charles; I knew him well enough to blame him, personally, for betraying our friendship and his own nature. And yet, despite this knowledge, I gradually came to see what happened in the same impersonal way my [liberal, detached] classmates did. What can you expect? I asked myself. It’s not his fault, it’s the way society made him. It was the easiest way of understanding what had happened, a thought that helped me forgive Charles and dismiss him from my life.
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I wonder why 2-year olds (although that's a generalization given my familiarity with only two two-year olds) find the simple light game we play so much fun. It goes like this: they switch on the light and I cheer. They turn off the light and I frown and make a sad face.

My hunch is it's due to one of two factors. One is that they feel empowered: they can make grandpa happy or sad based on the power of their actions. That can't be too familiar a thing for them! Second, more doubtfully perhaps, they feel empathy (although empathy is rarely shown by delight, ha). They empathize with someone being subject to another's whims.

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I like Word Among Us!:
God has a plan for you. So often, we reduce that plan to the things we have to do, like spending time in prayer, confessing sin, sharing our faith, or serving at our parish. Of course, these are all good things, and we should seek God’s guidance in them. But they are all small parts of God’s greatest plan: to fill us with his divine life and usher us into the glory of heaven!
We know that the call to holiness can be challenging at times. But it’s not always supposed to be hard. Sometimes it means gazing into the night sky and thinking about God’s goodness. Sometimes it means enjoying a family gathering. At its heart, holiness is a deep assurance that God is with you at all times, whether you are experiencing prosperity or hardship, joy or struggle.

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