Capitalism’s Future is Neigh

               Capitalism. There are diehard adherents to a system which has proven to be fundamentally flawed and only cares about the almighty dollar sign. Capitalism does have its benefits, it is a relatively free system when considered with other closed economy systems as communism practiced in the Soviet Union and one geared towards war under the National Socialists or Nazis in Germany. Capitalism alone did not defeat tyranny, because the governments of the “free world” controlled prices, rationed materials, food stuffs, other consumer goods, and unleashed the Arsenal of Democracy. Capitalism is a good system of government and the nearly unchecked capitalism of the United States is not prepared or will ever be ready to handle the future of humanity.

               Unregulated capitalism is a dream of many people, often the well-off, rich investor class because apparently, they need a second ten million dollars yacht, a new private jet, or their forth home! Oh, the humanity of being rich, sorry, the humanity of being a “job creator”. Spare me the faux outrage about the millionaires and billionaires complaining, most of them are not actually job creators. Small businesses still create the majority of jobs in today’s market, while most of the layoffs occur at mega corporations. There are only a few corporations which appear to have an employees’ wellbeing in mind and provide them with good health, dental, and vision insurance, paid time off, and sick leave. Even these corporations make mistakes, Netflix has appeared to let higher-level executive and soon-to-be-mom go because she was pregnant. And Netflix was supposed to be one of the good companies to work for. Not all mega corporations are bad, and not all small businesses are good, but most small businesses are more employee friendly.

               There is a fantasy among the diehards of unregulated capitalism that says the market will correct itself and care for people. This unhinged delusion has been proven wrong again and again, corporations only care about the bottom line and pleasing shareholders. The idea of trickledown economics of giving the mega rich more money, will trickle down to the lower people is bullshit to the highest degree. The idea of trickledown has been tried three times, during Reagan, George W. Bush, and Trump, and only thing it has done is create rack up the national debt and accelerated the income inequality between poor and rich.

               Do mega corporations care for their people? Yes, as long as they are able to make money for them, other than that, it is a resounding, hell no. Is there a blizzard headed your way, and is your work to slow to call off because they adamantly believe the storm will fizz out or not be as bad as the meteorologists say? Well, you better get to work! And if they do call off, they may let you take a vacation or paid time off time to make up for the pay – assuming they provide you the luxury of having that benefit. God forbid if you get sick, not every employer offers paid sick leave or even more deathly, paid bereavement leave. I am a firm believer that the government should mandate at a minimum, five vacation days, five paid time off days, five sick days, and five bereavement days – all at an employee’s full rate of pay.

               Why the government? Because corporations have shown themselves time again and again not to care about the best interest of their employees, and a lot of times about their own customers. Corporations tend to ask their employees to consider the interests of the corporation or business over their own, and yes there does need to be some leeway here between employer and employee. However, an employee should not be treated as a number, but rather a human being who deserves a work-life balance. An employee who feels appreciated, who gets time off to relax, time to take care of a sick child, family member, or themselves, to mourn the loss of a friend or loved one, these are the type of employees a business wants. But besides hollow words of valuing their employees (or in new age lingo, team members), do employees (corporate overlords) offer? Not much in times of time off, sick leave, or leeway with attendance issues. Oh, is it a blizzard outside and the state highways and interstate are closed? Well, take extra time but don’t be late because our bottom line comes before your safety! Though, we might cancel if the Apocalypse happens, but don’t hold your breath!

               Very few corporations or large businesses care about their employees besides the laws that have been enacted – and even then, they donate millions of dollars to lobbyists to persuade lawmakers to enact new laws which strip away at hard won benefits. From “right to work states”, lawsuits argued all the way to the Supreme Court to strip away union dues, labeling employees as “independent contractors”, wage theft by restaurant owners from the servers, the list goes on and on. A new movement has been born, one being waged by progressives to help reverse the dangerous course that has been paved by capitalism. Other countries, most predominantly in Europe, offer a milder form of government and capitalism, something that Bernie Sanders and AOC have called democratic socialism.

               There is a backlash against capitalism, one which has run amok for decades in the United States. There was little consequence towards the big banks in helping cause the Great Recession in 2008. There is little jail time or financial penalties to companies which regularly defraud, misled, or mistreat customers, investors, or the government agencies which are meant to regulate them. To me, capitalism has only one group of people to blame: themselves. A lot of politicians and upper management of businesses should act as if the lower classes should be benevolent about having a job, but in reality, a lot people need a full-time job and a part-time job just to survive.

               Businesses like to tout their “excellent” benefits package but upon closer examinations its usually just hogwash because most of the benefits have been mandated by legislation. Companies have mostly eliminated pensions because it costs them a great deal of money, instead employees are offered to create 401k plans, are lucky if their employer matches an employee’s contribution (some do up to a certain percentage). Burdened with low wages, high costs of living, healthcare, and sometimes not enough hours, very few millennials and a substantial portion of Generation X have been able to save up for retirement. My generation (I’m an older millennial) is forecasted to be less well off than our parents, a first since the Great Depression.

               America is at a crossroads, the future of a better society rests on the general election in 2020, otherwise by the time the next general election comes around, it may be too late.

Fantasyland (Part 1)

               The rise and establishment of fantasyland has already happened, and while it has been a common theme, one which has persisted through the colonization of America, it has never been more dangerous now that before. For great read about what constitutes Fantasyland, Kurt Andersen (no relation, though he is a fellow Nebraskan), wrote an excellent book called Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire, A 500-Year History.

               The main premise of Fantasyland is that your belief is superior to anybody else’s belief, even if your belief has no credibility or is rooted in reality. The assault of the uneducated, the crackpots, and the fringes of both sides, used to be contained before the rise of modern technology of the radio, television. Though the fringes were given a new outlet, they remain contained until the creation of the Internet and social media, which has given every person access and a means to share their thoughts. (Yes, I can laugh at the irony, this is being shared by a website and has links on social media).

               The problem with every person having the ability to instantly share their thoughts is, not everybody is educated or knowledgeable about everything going on. I don’t claim to be fully educated and a subject matter expert on everything – there is simply no way to know everything in the world. There is not enough time in the world to read every book or watch every documentary, and you simply cannot download the information from the Matrix. However, not having enough time is not an excuse of being ignorant about the issues.

               A wide plethora of information is easily at our finger tips, but the problem is not the information or data but the way it is presented. With the initial creation of Fox News in 1996, a conservative slant was created for the presentation of a new truth. The majority of Fox News on-air talent are not journalists (off-hand only Shep Smith and Chris Wallace are journalists), but are entertainers like Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and Judge Jeanie. Just because the right-wing has their own media bias, is the left-wing of politics absolved of any wrong doing. There are crazies on the left, off-hand thinking of Keith Olbermann. The problem with both sides stems down to education…

               A lot of the right-wing talent really isn’t remarkable, they are mostly high school graduates and college drop outs (assuming they even attended). Their talent stems from creating a Joseph Goebbels level of spin of the original facts or by presenting alternative facts. If that doesn’t work, there is always the massive level of what-about-ism. Hillary Clinton last held public office in 2013. Her handling of the email fiasco is not unprecedented, as former Secretary of State’s Powell and Rice had used personal email to conduct official government business. During the George W. Bush administration, millions of emails were deleted. There is no what-about-ism here, simply government officials on both sides of the political spectrum have been fast and loose with rules about using personal email to conduct government business and then deleting emails.

               The problem I think is Fantasyland has become so entrenched into the American psyche, it has had twenty years to fester with creation reality television and non-stop twenty-four-hour news coverage. The constant need to fill the air created a demand for even the slightest happening becoming news. This growing infection has created celebrities out people offspring of famous parents – think Kardashians. Television has allowed the rich and the famous a chance to rehabilitate their image, first Reagan who had a weekly program, a radio show, and wrote a multitude of opinion pieces from 1976 until his election. Reagan’s transformation from a B-list movie actor is nothing compared nothing of the grade A bullshit Donald Trump was able to spin with The Apprentice. He made millions believe he was a successful business person, when in reality he most likely isn’t.

               What kind of steps can be taken to help remove the delusions of greatness or the rightness of their political beliefs?  Unfortunately, I think the answers are in the realm of fantasy because I do not think there is one easy solution or cure-all or instant process to eliminate the delusion which has been established and taken a firm hold. The biggest cure-all which would probably help eliminate Fantasyland is better programming on the 24-hour news networks. Not everything is newsworthy and needs or deserves to be reported – for example giving a celebrity who is a Flat Earther time on the air isn’t exactly beneficial to anybody. The networks can still offer around the clock news, but more programming time should be dedicated to a credible debate about the issues, not just a summary of talking points. I know it asking for a lot and is probably a far-fetched dream of having solid debates and polite but heated discussions, but it would help dispel the fantastical myths (like an imaginary sky figure telling a person to run for political office).

               A better starting point would be re-introducing the Fairness Doctrine which essentially states both viewpoints need to be presented in an equal manner. The problem with the Fairness Doctrine is it only controlled the airwaves for television and it would be near impossible to implement on the Internet, and one which would rightfully face a lot of lawsuits. The idea sounds improbable and maybe in the future (probably far future) when the political situation has become more stable and rational and not dominated by deranged fantasists, can the Fairness Doctrine come back. There will always be wing nuts on both sides of the spectrum, but the Internet has eliminated most control over how far the crazy is allowed to spread.

               I think the best starting point would be to greatly tweak our education system. In practice there are 50 different education standards (for the 50 states), but Texas due to its sheer size has generally held a monopoly on content. This has slowly changed with the ease of making different electronic/digital books for school districts; however, this is not an ideal solution. In the global world of today, I think there needs to be a federal standard of education and one which you cannot label the American Civil War as the War of Northern Aggression, gloss over the Civil Rights Movement or only mention the good moments of our nation. By limiting a person’s education and denying them the basic understandings of history and civics, you are entrenching another generation into Fantasyland.

               There is no easy solution to combating the fantasy that one person’s beliefs are superior to another’s. There is no simple cure all potion to drink which will make all our problems and ignorance go away. It is not easy to tell a person they are wrong and even if you do summon up the courage to do so, they are unlikely to change their ways. We have all become willing or unwilling participants in America the Fantasyland, we have idolized our founders and past-presidents into mythical, God-like status, even though they were flawed individuals like us. The majority of our electorate has succumbed to receiving soundbites from talking heads on the radio or television. The vast majority of Americans said they have never or picked up only a few books after graduating high school.

               We have a choice to make, continue living in a Fantasyland as the rest of the world develops and leaves us behind or to act and join the modern world. Cast off the idea of American exceptionalism, the idea of a imaginative figure in the sky who talks to us, and battle to save ourselves, our species, and our planet.

Natural Disasters Are Becoming Man-made Disasters

               With an alarming rate, natural disasters like floods, hurricanes, severe thunderstorms, and tornadoes are occurring with more frequency and severity. There will always be natural disasters, it is part of being on a planet which is always evolving and changing. Earthquakes will always occur and may increase volcanic activity, which in turn creates another disaster. It is only with the spread of human civilization to almost every nook and cranny of Earth have natural disasters become a catastrophe which garners media attention and elicits a human response to help others in need. I’m sorry dinosaurs, but I’ve seen enough Jurassic Park movies where I’m thankful the asteroid helped eliminate you from the planet.

               How can we help reduce the severity of natural disasters? It is a simple question to answer, with an easy solution, but the implementation of said solution would be very difficult to carry out. There have always been natural disasters, very few which had global consequences or impacted hundreds of thousands to tens of millions of people at one time. That is until the spread of humanity to all the habitable continents of the globe. By spreading our wings, we have made certain almost every severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado, torrential rainfall from a series of storms or a hurricane with storm surges, can cause havoc and extreme destruction of our cities and infrastructure.

               I live in Nebraska, born and raised. And currently we are going through flooding which is slowly receding, which has caused at least a billion dollars in damage and lost revenue – though it is too early to know full extent of the damage and financial impact. Current estimates put just the agriculture damage at a billion dollars, including dead livestock, crop storage wiped out, and the possibility of not being able to plant crops for current season. Today’s disasters effect everybody, when California was facing severe drought, it strained the system because a large majority of America’s fruit and nut crops are grown in the Golden State.

               The impact of natural disasters will only grow as more people call Earth home, and our cities and towns expand horizontally. Climate change is the biggest disaster, one which is slowly unfolding. The biggest impact from climate change will be the rising of sea levels, which threaten every coastal city and billions of people. A temporary solution to battling the effects of sea rise caused by melting ice caps is to create massive sea walls to protect our cities and other areas. This is a massive feat and one which is unprecedented on a national scale, let alone a global scale. The other solution is to abandon or relocate cities which will be impacted by rising sea levels.

               I’ve written a lot about creating a new set of cities, a cluster of buildings called Sky Cities together, capable of housing a minimum of 40,000 people, schools, hospitals, businesses, and residents. These cities within cities will help locate humanity into a much smaller presence on Earth (and maybe other planets we eventually inhabit). The idea about mitigating impact of natural disasters is helping our species survive – and reducing the enormous cost of rebuilding and the emotional toll of losing family and friends. The task of creating these enormous Sky Cities is difficult.

               First, the technology to reliably build these megastructures needs to exist, we are getting close but have not quite reached the ability to build structures a mile high or taller. Possibly when graphene is mass produced, then we can conquer the first step of mitigating natural disasters and the man-made disasters of climate change. Secondly, finding geographic locations where the risk of earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions are as low as possible. Though, it may be a moot point if we have the technology to build structures one to two miles high, we may have the technology to create buildings which do not crumble or sustain damage from earthquakes, tsunamis, and are resistant to molten lava.

               Once these buildings are built, the human challenge takes into shape, getting people to live in these new cities, one which I have briefly covered before and is also alluded to in my novel, Within the Grasp of Ordinary. There are a lot of elements which are controversial in getting peoples into the cities, and I’m not advocating for them – even though I thought of them. That is part of being an author, thinking outside of the box even if it does not fit your view/beliefs – you have to be open to new ideas and thoughts, even if they make you uncomfortable. Forcing people from their homes, like what happened in the story’s universe, is uncomfortable and highly unethical, but it occurred under the mantra of saving humanity from itself.

               In Within the Grasp of Ordinary, the mega structures which house humanity have a trade-off. The risk of natural disasters is small as humanity has technology evolved to make structures capable of withstanding disasters, moved away from areas vulnerable to rising sea levels, flood plains, earthquakes, etc. The risk comes from terrorist attacks, where when one Sky City structure is destroyed, the death toll is in the tens of thousands. Putting it bluntly, terrorist attacks like natural disasters will always happen but terrorist attacks right now are easier to prevent or foil through due diligence by law enforcement. Natural disasters aren’t preventable, but we can mitigate our risk by transforming the way we live.

               I’m no expert but I believe the current method within this country of denying climate change and its effects will only make us worse off. Tens of billions of dollars of damage are done every year in property to American cities and families, that’s not mentioning the emotional damage from the loss of loved ones. If we do nothing to change our behavior and mitigate our risk to natural disasters, we are stupid because we have seen countless film reels of destruction hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, etc. Natural disasters will always happen but humanity’s folly does not need to contribute to the innate destructive powers of Mother Nature.

Writing, Research, and Being Yourself

              Writing can be hard, easy, fun, rewarding, mind-boggling, stressful, and full of excitement. One of the most difficult parts I have about writing, both in creative and academic settings, is being myself. This may sound more like a self-doubt writing session, and I can see that point because we as people tend to be our own worst critics. My intent is not to sound pessimistic or at the same time to say I am the greatest writer of all time or even of my generation. My objective is to share my insights into creating characters while sharing the difficulty of being myself and not another character that sometimes gets control of my mind.

               It is true that within every character there is part of the author. I think this fact is difficult to dispute especially when it comes to writing creative characters (as opposed to writing alternative history or historical fiction). The characters that authors create will always be apart of us because in the end, we created them either through our own processes, which for me is mostly observing other people or using people in my life. One of the main characters of my first novel, Within the Grasp of Ordinary, is Philip, who is at least eighty percent me. He’s 16, his parents are divorced, he lives with his mother, has a strained relationship with his father, his sister is away at college, and his older twin brothers are serving in the military in a warzone.

               I was 16 once (we all were or will be), my parents were divorced, I lived with my father, have a difficult relationship with my father, but don’t have an older sister or twin brothers, but several extended family members who served in the military and in warzones. Our interests are similar, I used to play soccer as a youth and was part of the soccer team as a student manager during high school, whereas Philip has played soccer all his life. Our academic interests are aligned, we both enjoy political science and have an optimist’s sense for the future, always believing the best in people until they hurt you, and then it is near difficult to restore that sense of trust.

               There are always two sides to a person, not fully an alter ego, but somebody who offers a counterbalance, that person is also heavily influenced by me, my biological brother, and some friends, that character’s name is Tristan. Tristan is the same age as Philip, 16, and both have known each other since they were toddler’s learning to play soccer. While Philip is the optimist, Tristan is the realist, and though on a few occasions the roles do change, because characters like people do act differently from the cast-type they have been given. I feel most natural as myself when I’m in these two characters mindsets because they each have a good percentage of me imbedded in them. Their interactions between each other are funny, intimate, and feel authentic, because they know each other so well.

               However, characters have the same awkwardness as others, not everybody is imbedded with natural talent to be people-friendly. I can easily approach a stranger, but in the same breath it is also exhausting to approach a person and strike up a conversation. It is here where sometimes I feel, especially at work, I am in character. I am not fully myself because my job requires me to be courteous. I used to work customer service, both in person and over the phone, and I loved and dreaded every minute of it. There are nice people, there are indifferent people, and there are customers who are downright rude, and I wish voodoo dolls worked to inflict torment. I truly believe everybody should be required to work retail for at least one month, to better understand how demanding and unsatisfying the job can be. Perhaps then, people could treat others who fulfill our needs in stores, restaurants, and over the phone with a bit more respect and patience.

               At work though, I feel like I’m in character because outside of the happy, shows up almost every day, and goofy attitude, very few people at work know I write or read a plethora of books, mostly non-fiction. This is partially by design, if people know you write, they tend to get a perception of you. I’ve been asked by a few people who know I write, if they are characters in my story. The honest answer is no, but a bit more complicated. I will use a person’s name or a combination of two or three names to create a character but assign different attributes to a person. Part of the reason for this is because I don’t really consider these people friends. I don’t socialize with them, only occasionally run into them outside of work at retail establishments. It feels like a weird sort of constructed wall, I’m sociable not anti-social outside of work and a closed circle of friends and family. Only friends, family, and ex-girlfriends have become characters, and probably will always remain that way because they are people who I have established great connections with, interests, memories, etc.

               One of the most challenging tasks of being an author (and a human) sometimes is showing empathy to your characters. Characters need to be real in order to be liked and to feel a sense of progression and recovery, a sense of triumph over their circumstances. Characters need to be genuine, rational and irrational – because for no matter how logical we try to be, we make illogical decisions. Characters also need to be hurt, they need to go through relationships with friends and significant others which tested, they could fail or overcome their difficulties. Their families need to be imperfect, but not too imperfect, otherwise it becomes unbelievable. The difficult part of being myself as a reader and then a writer, is separating myself from the creation. It is hard not to feel emotional or weep about a character’s pain or loss, especially when the experiences are like my life.

               It is hard to write about something if you have never taken part in the experience. I have never mountain climbed (and not really that interested in it) but if I ever wanted to write about it I would have to get myself familiarized with it. There is first hand experience, one you as the author have personally gone through, then two types of second-hand experience. The first case of second-hand experience is watching two real people (non-actors) go through an event, like a breakup, a loss of a family member in the military, just about anything. I believe this type of experience is beneficial because while you are not directly feeling the emotions of the event, you are indirectly apart of it. You are able to glisten how real people react to a situation.

               The second type of second-hand experience is conducted by actors, so in television shows, movies, etc. I would argue books are a little different, you are not visually seeing an experience, your brain is interpreting the letters into words, then words into an action, which you may imagine. Semantics aside… There are a lot of great television shows and movies out there, and the acting is superb, but it is important to remember, it is a performance. Yes, a good actor has studied the human element of their role and knows how to perform, but it still an act. The small screen and silver screen allow people to get a good understanding of events or topics which many people have little to no idea about. Off the top of my head, going to war would be a big one. Not many people have witnessed the gruesomeness of war, and never will.

               Tying this back into the idea of creating characters and being yourself, a character may be based off the author, author’s friends, family, people the author interacts with on a regular basis, etc. The author needs to be the character but also themselves, but at times it is hard to be themselves because the demands of the craft. If one of your characters becomes the President or CEO of a large corporation, you need to know how both of those roles function because statistically you will most likely never get to be the President or CEO of a large corporation. You can endlessly think about how you the author (not the character) would act in a position, but until you’ve experienced the role either first-hand or through careful second-hand research, how will you understand how the role works? How about the norms? The written and unwritten rules?

               It is important to research this all when creating characters and it is part of being an author, you have to research in order to make a story plausible. Even fantasy environments need to be well researched, what kind of language do the people speak? What are their customs? Beliefs? Religion? Etc. You can do too much research where the story and the characters become too knowledgeable, too unbelievable and uninteresting. It is difficult to tell people how to create characters, because everybody has a different process and each person can only offer their opinions and share the methods to their madness.

Climate Change, What if we are too late?

               Right now, most scientists predict that 2030 is close to the point of no return, where by then the damage to our polar ice caps and glaciers will be irreversible. The amount of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide and the more damaging methane) are at the highest parts per million in recorded history – though we know Earth had more carbon in earlier stages of development. For an excellent explanation of the effects of greenhouse gasses, here is a paraphrased example from Cosmos. Imagine on a scale of 1-6, the lower number being no greenhouse gases, the planet would be an ice world. At the highest number, Earth would resemble Venus. Either case, life as we know it would not flourish on the world we call home. Right now, Earth was about a 3 on this scale, but we are slowly increasing upwards, a slight increase is probably manageable, but turn the notch up to a 4, 4.5, or 5, who knows dire the effects will really be.

               Currently, there is a good framework offered by the Paris Climate Agreement in cutting back greenhouse gas emissions and generating energy from renewable sources. Under the leadership of one of the most uninformed and curiosity-challenged executives, the United States withdrew from the agreement because it is allegedly hurting America. The argument it is hurting America is bullshit, because climate change will hurt America, it will destabilize other parts of the globe, which will in turn threaten American interests and strain current humanitarian aid, and possibly draw us into more armed conflicts. The point of this writing though isn’t to argue how misguided withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement is, it is to ask the question: What if we are too late in in acting to mitigate the direst effects of climate change?

               If we are too late, it doesn’t mean we should cease efforts to further mitigate climate change. If the sea level rises only ten feet, it is better than twenty feet. If sea levels dramatically rise, the coastlines of all the continents will be altered, some greater than others. Asia will suffer the worse, with tens of millions in low-lying areas, especially in Bangladesh. More islands, some have already disappeared, will be claimed by the sea. There is no telling how many humans may lose their lives – and what kind of economic impact it will have on their nations and the world. Highly populated areas tend to have a higher means of production, and the loss of these areas would be devastating. A lot of clothes Americans wear are manufactured in Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Taiwan, which would be greatly devastated by rising sea levels.

               Millions may die and tens of millions being relocated, especially in a short timeframe, would be devastating to areas not directly impacted by rising sea levels. The infrastructure like accommodations, food, drinking water, electricity demands, healthcare, etc. are something that takes a lot of planning to pull off successfully, and on a short notice there will be dire consequences. The mass relocation of people, without proper planning, will cause further strain on systems which are already under strain, and potentially a catastrophe of epic proportions. There is no guarantee that even a disaster of this scale, caused by climate change, will make the numerous deniers change their thinking or ways. Change is not easy but in terms of grappling with climate change, it will be necessary.

               But what if nothing is done, and we cross the threshold, the point of no return. What will need to be done to save our species? What changes will we have to make to ensure Earth remains the primary home of the human species? What about animals, insects, etc.?

               This is something I’ve thought a lot about, because I wrote close to fifty pages of a backstory exploring the world which led up to my novel’s premise 200 years in the future. In Within the Grasp of Ordinary (the book), the events of the backstory are referenced several times to its main character, David Ross, and the actions he took as In the Night They Came. It is best to describe the events as:

               The many nations of the world have strived to meet their greenhouse gas reductions goals, reduction in pollutants, and renewable energy targets, the polar ice caps, and Greenland ice sheet continue to melt, and sea levels rise. Businessman David Ross, a billionaire (really a secret trillionaire), along with a group of like-minded partners have come up with a plan to save the human species from itself. In remote facilities they begin fabrications of humanities new homes, and the implementation of the world’s biggest migration project. After working their way into the halls of power in the world’s most industrious and mighty nations, David Ross and his group launch the world-wide coup.

Slowly reports begin to air on major television news of the murders of prominent climate change deniers. Then an entire broadcast is dedicated to the construction of massive new structures, reaching a mile or higher into the air, called “Sky Cities”. Most of the parts of these structures have been pre-fabricated and then are erected within three months, and have areas dedicated to businesses, schools, hospitals, homes, gardens, etc. These structures, on top of being durable, are constructed with material which acts like a solar panel and has wind turbines. At first, people voluntarily move into these new Sky Cities which are constructed in metropolitan areas.

Soon though, people from smaller cities, towns, and villages are forcibly relocated into the expanding number of skyscrapers. A second revolution begins, as the smaller population areas are relocated, the old places of human habitation are demolished. In some cases, Mother Nature is allowed to reclaim the land. In other cases, the massive hydroponic farms are created to feed the population with fresh produce. In labs, genetically-modified animal fats have been used to create “meat” which tastes, smells, and cooks like meat from an animal. Our dependence on massive number of cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, etc., which only help exacerbate our greenhouse gases problems (mostly by methane emissions), is eliminated.

The third step in David Ross’s plan is the final relocation of the world’s big cities. Over a twenty-year period, billions of people are relocated from millions of villages, towns, cities, into 200 metropolitans consisting entirely of Sky Cities. There is space between each structure, the ground level serving as areas for recreation, open space, etc. The need for cars has been eliminated with public transportation available from structure to structure and from one metropolitan area to the next. A drastic change in the way humanity lives has occurred, and it wouldn’t be our first. Initially we were all hunter-gathers, slowly coalescing into villages with the development of agriculture. Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, we have formed denser and highly populated cities, most of the world’s population now lives in areas urban areas. David Ross’s vision is fiction but one which while science fiction, may someday become science fact.

The plan I imagined is fictional and I am aware of the very high cost it asks of people, uprooting their lives, often at gun point. Several characters in the story, Within the Grasp of Ordinary, and the in the works sequel, reference the enormous costs and tragic consequences. In this fictional universe, the defenders of Ross’s actions argue the end (humanity saving itself from climate change) justifies the means (brutal relocation, planetary exiles, etc.). In the real world, the result rarely justifies the means and I think we need to act now to prevent the worst possibilities of climate change. The Green New Deal, and Paris Climate Accord may not be enough, but it is better to aim for the stars than not to even try at all.

Father’s Day (Reposted)

There is no perfect father, there are only imperfect fathers trying to be their best. What makes a person a good father is open to people’s interpretation and social norms of the time. I was born in 1986 and both my parents worked, my dad worked two jobs, his civilian job and as Captain in the Army Reserve. I remember my dad working evenings and my younger brother and I, along with our mother, bringing ice cream to him. As young kids we didn’t know the difference between active and reserve Army, and when dad went away for annual training it felt like forever. I vaguely remember bits and pieces of conversations dad had during the 1991 Gulf War. He never got deployed but having that possibility, that feeling of him going away for whose know how long, felt heavy.

My relationship with my father since then has been amicable but strained, we do not see eye to eye on politics (myself being a moderate to progressive, him being conservative). I believe because of his past in the military and the way his step-father is, he was taught to be in control and follow a patriarchal-dominated viewpoint. Years after my parents divorced and I was living on my own, I was digging through my notebooks and stumbled across a journal of his. In the writings I saw how he struggled to come to terms with the divorce but also attempted to manipulate religion to try and not get divorced.

Why am I sharing this? Part of it is because it helps bring additional context to what I’ve written. I grew up in a generation between Star Wars, the Episode 4, 5 and 6 had already been released but Episode 1, 2 and 3 didn’t start coming in 1999 when I was 13 years old. I was always intrigued by the father-son dynamic of Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker and the mystery around it. I would have preferred the backstory of Anakin becoming Vader to be shrouded in mystery because the prequel trilogy sucks and is filled with plot holes and contradictions.

In my teenage years I started what would become Within the Grasp of Ordinary, which really did not explore a father-son dynamic. However, as an adult when I returned to the story’s universe, much had changed and I felt comfortable incorporating and exploring the father-son dynamic and presenting some what ifs in my own life. I’ve always wondered what if my father went active Army instead of Army Reserves – would my parents still have divorced – most probably given the current divorce rate in the military is higher than the civilian population.

There are different father-son relationships than Philip (mostly based off me) and his father Thomas, there is the relationship of Tristan and his recently deceased father. Lastly there is Nathan and his father David who is running to become the next President. By including father-son dynamics, the story morphed away from “pure” science fiction to a coming of age, political thriller set in a science fiction environment.

Though my father and my relationship is strained, he did play an active part in the story (he is more than a character and influencer), he lent me the Babylon 5 DVDs I bought him years prior. He discussed other elements of science fiction and his thoughts on futuristic political environments, planetary colonization, etc. I ended up sharing a copy with him and after he read a few chapters, he asked if he was the “bad guy”.

I answered along the lines that it depends on whose perspective the question is asked from as every character interprets their actions and the actions of others differently.

 

The Youthful Inexperienced Fallacy

              There is nothing wrong with a person’s age. Whenever a younger person as an opinion, or takes a stance, there is criticism about the person’s age. Yes, young people make mistakes, they can be naïve, ambitious, foolhardy, and full of themselves, but so can everybody else. The consensus is the older one gets, the wiser one acts, this isn’t always the case as witnessed the numerous politicians, their elderly supporters, and those who constantly bash millennials and post-millennials as being lazy, entitled, naïve, full of themselves, and lacking experience in the real world.

                Some of the three youngest heroes of the American Revolutionary War are John Laurens, son of Henry Laurens, who was in the Continental Congress and later its President. Next is Alexander Hamilton, and then Layfette, all of them in their late teens until mid-twenties from the start to end of the war. Though the life expectancy of people was a lot lower then, and norms way different than today, it does not change the fact that three young people were very fundamental in serving General Washington as aides, advisers, and field commanders in winning the war. They were surrogate sons who made up the military family of the commander and chief, and their opinions were valued.

               Shortly after the Parkland school shooting, a common criticism lobed against those who spoke up is they were young teenagers who knew nothing about the world. Yes, it is a common complaint about younger generations, they are ignorant, they don’t have much experience in the world and how it works, and so forth. In their defense, we were all teenagers once, and our dreams reached for the stars. We do grow up and see our dreams tempered by setbacks, by whose who wish for us to fail, and because the economy and great game of life has been stacked in favor of the rich and those who are already in power.

               The young people of today have the most to lose from inaction taken by politicians and business leaders who currently control the halls of power. Climate change is the biggest challenge, one which a lot of older people seem to ignore. The world is certainly changing, and yes it has always gone through periods of change, but the rate of change is something we have never experienced before. Younger people are pushing businesses to be more aware of their environmental impacts, and businesses have responded by launching recycling initiatives, redesigns of products to use less plastic, and making products from alternative energy sources like wind and solar. The green revolution is still young, but AOC’s Green New Deal is promising because it will not only help Americans in trying to stave off the direst effects of climate change, it will create a lot of new jobs. Green energy employs more people than coal, which even without the expansion of alternative energy was losing jobs.

               The millennial and post-millennial generations are not only trying to save America (and humanity) from climate change, but from the massive income inequality. There will always be income inequality, the top echelon of management will always make more than the lowest worker, however it doesn’t need to be a massive 300 times more. The young people of today overwhelmingly support legislation which will help restore the top rates to closer to the times when the government invested money into policies which made life better for people. Higher tax rates in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s allowed for expansion of Medicaid and Medicare, the Interstate Highway System, the Space Program, and research and development of other technologies, leading to arguably one of the most important: The Internet.

               The youth of the nation is important and there is a dire need to make sure the current and future generations are well served by a government that cares for their wellbeing. Everybody deserves the chance to go to school and succeed, to progress to technical schools or universities free of cost. Everybody deserves affordable healthcare for themselves and their children, and should not have to worry about missing a day of work and pay for calling in to care for a child, and elderly parent, or themselves.

               I don’t think youth and the perceived lack of experience from youth is as bad as people make it out to be. I believe by being young, you aren’t exactly set in stone about how things operate, how things have always been done, you are willing to try new things. In America, the youngest president we have ever elected was JFK at 42, and before him, Teddy Roosevelt was 43 – though he wasn’t elected president until he was older (he became President on McKinley’s death). Currently Mayor Paul Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana is running for President in the 2020 cycle, he is 37. Sure, there have been other young contenders like William Jennings Bryan aged 36 in 1896, and Al Gore aged 39 in 1988. Age isn’t everything and the way the baby boomers have run America since acquiring power, really makes me believe we need the millennials in power to help save the country and the world.