The Snowman (Full Version)

I am going to break up these five pieces of deep thought with this YouTube video of the full version of the Snowman.  It ties in perfectly…and loops back to recent posts.  It is so odd…that I came by this film via my nine-year old’s Christmas choir performance…I was expecting to hear the same old shit…Jingle Bells…Frosty the Snowman…Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer…and of course I did hear some of the same old shit…but….then….from some where magical…came this song….Walking in the Air…and it hit a deep chord…and so I looked into it…and thus the multiple posts on this music and film animation.  My brother  texted me and notified me that the full version of the film was now available on YouTube.  So here it is down below…it takes some 28 minutes to view…but it is worth it.  I love the contrast between what the beautiful spirited boy shows the Snowman….the Snowman as I interpret being the embodiment of Nature…and what the Snowman shows the boy…this is…in its simplest form…the point and conundrum I am facing and addressing with this critical reasoning project.  And….the music piece…Walking in the Air…is the highest form of expressing my sentiments.

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The Snowman

Video

Now I know where Frosty the Snowman came from…I would prefer our children to see this film and listen to this music…the lyrics, the music, this boys voice…come from somewhere magical.  Every now and again, man creates something that is worthy of ringing through eternity.

Lyrics…”Walking in the Air”

We’re walking in the air
We’re floating in the moonlit sky
The people far below are sleeping as we fly

I’m holding very tight
I’m riding in the midnight blue
I’m finding I can fly so high above with you

Far across the world
The villages go by like dreams
The rivers and the hills
The forests and the streams

Children gaze open-mouthed
Taken by surprise
Nobody down below believes their eyes

We’re surfing in the air
We’re swimming in the frozen sky
We’re drifting over icy
Mountains floating by

Suddenly swooping low on an ocean deep
Rousing up a mighty monster from his sleep

We’re walking in the air
We’re dancing in the midnight sky
And everyone who sees us greets us as we fly

Death of the Nation

Mankind could benefit greatly by observing the free-flowing forces of nature.  The winds, clouds, oceans, rivers and continents pay no attention to borders.  The earth, sun, our solar system, our galaxy, all galaxies, fall freely through infinite space.

The concept of a nation with its own borders, walls, military, laws, economy and politics is in reality obsolete.  A nation imprisons the people in the form of patriotism, wastes resources, and complicates cooperation.  In the grand scheme of the universe the nation concept appears foolish.

But mankind may never come to understand that we all share this blue-green marble with each other and all the other animate creatures.  Even though the airplane, the ship, the train, the automobile, and the internet enables us to break through our own self-created borders, our consciousness hasn’t adjusted accordingly.  We still hold on to past superstitions and constructs that tear us apart.  We don’t seem to be as intelligent, evolved, or conscious as we lead ourselves to believe.  Perhaps I should be more patient.  After all, relative to geological time, we just emerged from the jungle this morning.

Danes Happiness a Distant Beacon?

Utopia is a loaded concept and likely unattainable much like perfect knowledge or enlightenment, but an ideal concept does have the power to potentially move people in a more promising direction.  Of course, that ideal needs to be based on some logic and realistic expectations, otherwise naïve faith could lead people to a very disappointing outcome.  Imagine living your one life as a saint for the primary purpose of receiving  access to the pearly gates only to find no such gates exist.  Or, imagine deciding to blow yourself and hundreds of innocent people to bits in exchange for twenty beautiful virgins only to discover all that you achieved was a heinous act and eternal darkness.  If the saint performed saintly acts without expecting access to the pearly gates then there would be no sense of disappointment when time expires – the saintly acts in and of themselves contain both the gift and the reward, nothing more, nothing less.

Denmark, a nation of 5.5 million people, has consistently ranked number one on the “happiness” or contentment index from various surveys Happiness Survey Example.  The people who are born and raised in this culture and society appear to be more content than citizens of any other nation on the planet.  Why?  Before I go into some broad strokes that make Denmark unique, I wanted to post these YouTube videos from two young Danes who casually try to answer the question for us.  Why go into a bunch of facts and broad statements when two young people from the country can attempt to explain this mystery in their own words and mannerisms.

Aren’t those two videos interesting?  I hope you took the time to watch at least one of them.  One tends to focus on the peace of mind that comes with a socialistic welfare state and the other narrows in on setting lower expectations that mitigate anxiety and enable one to be more content with their lot in life.  Of course these are just two points of view from over 5 million people who live in Denmark day in and day out.  It is impossible to do this subject justice on a blog post or two.  My real purpose is to do some high level comparisons between the top five “happiest” nations and perhaps juxtapose these high-level findings relative to the United States (what many often call “the greatest country on earth”).  But I think Denmark deserves a post all to itself since it consistently claims the top spot on the “happiness” index.

I am going to use this paragraph to simply outline with broad short strokes what is unique about Denmark.  Denmark has the highest level of income equality in the developed world and the highest minimum wage – a dishwasher can make $25 dollars per hour.  The tax rates are the highest of any developed country and that includes a Value Added Tax (on most goods purchased including food) at 25%.  The progressive effective tax rate can start at 40+ percent and reach 70 percent, depending on your income level.  But, these high taxes enable free tuition through college and the government actually pays college students a small amount of money to go to school – they enjoy a 98% literacy rate.  Healthcare is covered by the state.  If you lose your job the government will pay you 90% of your past salary for up to four years.  Maternity leave is paid for from six months to a year.  Child care is partly paid for by the government.  If you have worked in Denmark for 40 years you will get a pension upon retirement.  The state helps with elder care.  Some other interesting facts are that Denmark is environmentally progressive and one-third of the citizens use a bicycle as the primary mode of transportation.  Tax on an automobile purchase is almost 200%!  Now you know why bicycles are popular.   The country ranks number two on the corruption index and people therefore trust each other and their government.  Violent crime is very rare.  Unemployment is very low.

Although Denmark is socialist, that doesn’t mean they are communists.  In fact, Denmark is considered one of the most competitive economies in the world (according to World Economic Forum, IMF, and the Economist) and enjoys the 7th highest income per capita.  Denmark has one of the freest financial and product markets in Europe.  So what we have here is a very competitive, productive, and free market economy that is capitalistic, but a socialist model that tends to eliminate wide variances in citizen income and uses this re-distribution to educate the young, care for the sick, and enable the elderly to enjoy a relatively secure retirement.

The word socialists, as the young lady in the YouTube video alluded to, conjures up images of drab communists walking around like zombies in rags.  Apparently, that doesn’t seem to be the case when that socialistic model is funded willingly (I am sure many Danes may find another word to replace “willingly”) through high taxes from citizens that are highly educated, literate, competitive, and relatively happy with less stress and anxiety.  In fact, they must be very productive if they come in third in terms of the least amount of hours worked!   It seems that Denmark might counter the often pure capitalistic argument that higher taxes on the wealthy will lower innovation, productivity, and motivation.  It also helps that the government appears to be somewhat competent with the tax revenues (I am sure some Danes would disagree) as the country’s debt to GDP is just 39.5%.

In essence, the capitalistic socialistic model in Denmark is built for the young, the sick (even if sickness temporary), the elderly, and the middle class.  In general, the majority of the young have equal opportunity to pursue higher education and their future occupation regardless of what family they are born into.  Of course, equal opportunity doesn’t mean everyone’s outcome should be equal.  A very talented individual can still make relatively good money.  A citizen that earns $1 million in a year may have a 70% tax burden, but he/she would still net $300,000 in a year.  In contrast, a citizen that earns just $50,000 in a year and faces a 43% tax burden only brings home $28,500 bucks.  There still exists salary or wage inequality, but the variances between those that have much and those that have less aren’t as extreme as in pure capitalistic societies with lower tax rates and loop holes.  And, I am sure the middle class in Denmark have learned to make their disposable income go a long way through self-control by limiting their needs and wants for nice cars, big houses, and lots of things.  Although they hit the high rank on the happiness or contentment index, that doesn’t mean they have easy lives filled with anything their hearts desire.  They must simply have the discipline needed to enjoy what they have.  Many of these people bike miles in the rain and snow to get to work as opposed to driving in a warm Mercedes-Benz with heated seats that they are leasing through debt or credit.

But Denmark isn’t immune from current or future cracks in the socialistic capitalistic framework.  For example, the country is currently experiencing a skilled labor shortage High income tax worsens a labor shortage .  Why?  Apparently many of the young are jumping ship to work abroad to avoid the high tax burden.  In short, they get all the benefits of growing up and getting educated “for free” and then take advantage of the system by working abroad.  I have a solution to this “free-rider” problem, but I doubt the Danish people would agree with me as they appear to be a very free-spirited people.  My solution would be that those working abroad would get slapped with a nice bill for all the tax revenue used to raise and educate them in the country before they jumped shipped to earn their windfall gains.  Other potential problems are that Denmark relies on exporting services and products to the global economy.  The current problems in the global economy adversely impact their export income which puts strain on their ability to keep funding their expensive citizen care.  They have, however, fared pretty well during the current meltdowns in the United States and Europe, but who is to say the global economy isn’t going to head further south?

There is much more to discuss about Danish culture and there are many more sources to explore.  In fact there is a blog that I am trying to get access to in order to learn more.  Truth be told, one really needs to live in Denmark for an extended period of time to really gain some insight.  I would love to observe the Danes in public going about their business, watch their news and favorite TV shows, hang out in cafes and bars and talk to the people including students, observe the landscapes and the architecture, and visit other locations besides just Copenhagen.  For now, all I can offer is this short post and some articles below that were sources for some of this content.  Regardless of this short post and material, I feel like they are on to something important in their mix of capitalism and socialism.  But, applying such a system to other large countries that don’t have the culture or momentum of this hybrid model would be like trying to reverse the course of a tsunami.  The potential learning points, however, can be viewed as beacons to a long-term course or strategy.  Could the Danes socialistic capitalistic model be a distant beacon to humanity?  Could such a system, if rolled out carefully over time, in fact become even more sustainable and practical if the world at large adopted the philosophy?

Some source articles: 

Why danes happier than americans

Why danes so happy

Happiest place on Earth

Real Modern Utopias

I have often been coined a “Utopian” per several participants on this blog.  Although I despise the stereo type, I realize that my child-like and naive rants indeed warrant the sentence.  I have posted arguments against the hyper focus on profits and capitalism, against human created instruments like money, debt, credit, and investments, against over-population (7 billion people), against environmental destruction, and against the overall lack of meaningful direction or directions of mankind that prevent the human species from striving to its full potential relative to the rest of the known animate creatures on Earth.  But, there are a few civilizations and periods of time that I admire in the past given my western focus (Greece, Rome, the Renaissance) and certain individuals after those eras that inspire me.  Yet, there are a few examples in the here and now which I can highlight as beacons for humankind.

There exists several countries on Earth that I and others believe serve as role models or potential solutions to the short-term human mis-direction that exists with the majority of the  7 billion human beings in existence.  I resort to an article as a simple source to this argument Top Ten Modern Utopias.  I will of course review this article and the assumptions with a critical eye, but on the first few reviews I believe it offers a very good foundation.  It is important to note that the United States and other large power-houses didn’t make the cut!

My next several posts will go into more depth on perhaps the top five and discuss the attributes, structure, culture, and environment that enables these civilizations or countries to reach greater levels of “happiness” or “fulfillment” than the rest of human population.  My desire is to merge my naive and child-like Utopia visions with practical and real life examples to offer solutions for the future direction or directions of mankind.  The top five countries that I will focus on per the article above are:

1. Denmark

2. Canada

3. Norway

4. Australia

5. Netherlands

Generation Skip — The Anti-Climax

I am happy to finish this little blog project – utopia makes me depressed and I am getting bored with the topic as are the few bloggers that receive the posts.  If I had the patience and skill-set to write a fiction book, I think this framework would make a great story with lots of twists and turns —  characters, plots, descriptions, love and war, would bring this dead subject alive.  But I would also have to provide answers to the below questions which would defeat the purpose of this little project.    In writing the questions below and given my self-imposed limitation to simply provide a framework for these beings, I realized this is an extremely boring post and almost considered not posting it.  But, I do think #3, #6, #10, and #11 are pretty interesting and would be the material for a creative fiction story.  Perhaps if I ever find a place to attempt fiction, this would be my primary material.

But there is one key take away from building this utopian framework.  A team, a culture, a society, is only as strong as its populace, as its lowest denominator and highest numerator, and all those in between.  The key is to raise the level of the populace as a whole yet allow the flexibility in the framework to treat each individual as a priceless piece of the puzzel and do everything in your power to enable that individual.  In the end, after all supportive efforts have been exhausted, the value, fulfillment, and direction of that individual is up to him or her to define. 

There are many big questions which arise from this utopian framework.  The beings that emerge from Generation Skip and their offspring must answer these questions which will define their evolution. 

1.  What will be their visions and purposes?  I imagine this would take several generations before they could begin to formulate and outline the answer to this primary question for reasons outlined in previous post on education.

2.  What sticks and carrots would they employ being a money less society?  How would the highly talented and value producers be recognized and rewarded relative to the low-end of the spectrum?  My general thoughts here are more free time, relatively nicer living arrangements, and more access to traveling abroad.  On the wild side, perhaps these value producers would have more access to females or males for mating rights just like brute strength in the natural world gets the harem.  But, in a higher culture, I would think that ultimately enlightenment and knowledge are most likely the ultimate rewards and incentives that would in turn drive the visions and purposes.  A more enlightened populace would be a beautiful sight to behold — I think.

3.  Would these beings be free to leave these utopian frameworks opting to live and exist in the outside world?  What happens if a utopian being falls in love with a non-utopian being and wants to bring the non-utopian being back to live in the utopian construct?  What about the reverse scenario?  I would hope the answer would be yes to all of the above, but if no, that would make a more interesting segment of a fiction book.

4.  How would politics function?  My thought here is part-time politicians or quite simply sages.  Money would be out of the picture (unless they decide it is necessary) so the only concerns to watch would be abuse of power and influence.  An enlightened culture should be aware of man’s historical weakness with power and influence and they should be capable of erecting preventative measures.  It would be fun to see how they struggle to contain this historic urge.

5.  How would they handle the conundrum between being human yet recognizing the immense impact we have on the environment upon which we depend?  Will they sacrifice certain pleasures and comforts for the sake of the environment, or will they elect a path similar to ours?  Will they impose restrictions on the number of infants they bring into their world, or will they follow our lead?  Will they innovate and create alternatives so that they don’t have to make so many sacrifices to live with certain pleasures and comforts?  Or, will they in fact embrace sacrifice as a means to progress and reach different levels of achievement which may differ from our definitions?

6.  How would they view and interact with the outside world?   Will they view us as a hindrance, a monstrosity, much like a teenager may view the parents as he or she grows into a more enlightened stage?  What would they do if they viewed the outside world as a threat to their existence and visions?  Would they ever contemplate using the power of their intellect to create a means to destroy us?  Ha…another good piece to add to the book of fiction.  Alternatively, would these utopian frameworks evolve into a more altruistic community, a sort of think tank, which attempts to help us solve some of our perpetual problems?  Would they attempt to engage in other matters like the Olympics, a traveling symphony, as guest lecturers, and other capacities?. Or, would they simply start to ignore us and simply go about their business in relative isolation aside from educational observations while traveling abroad? 

7.  How would the outside world view these utopian frameworks?  Would these utopian communities inspire change or the impulse to emulate?  Or would these constructs stir dark emotions like envy, scorn, and jealousy?  Would such dark emotions lead to an attack on these utopian societies?

8.  How would the multiple utopian frameworks interact with each other?  I argued for multiple site locations throughout the world for these utopian frameworks to encourage variation and experimentation.  How would these utopian frameworks associate with one another?  Would they ever contemplate war against the outer world or against one another?  If a war was to be fought amongst one another, how would such wars or conflicts be fought?  What weapons or games would be employed for such a purpose?  What spoils would go to the victor?  On the other end of the spectrum, would they embrace and adapt differences and learn from one another?  Would they have joint celebrations?  What would they celebrate?  Again, this would also be interesting material for a fiction book.

9.  What types of customs will arise in regards to man and woman?  Will there be such a concept as marriage?  What would the ceremony entail?  What would happen upon a breakup of the couple without money or housing being an issue?

10.  What would they celebrate or worship?  They would be exposed to all religions so would they in fact celebrate all the holidays and gods?  Would they make up their own gods?  Would they have gods? 

11.  Would they partay (spelling correct)?  Would they embrace alcohol, drugs, tobacco, crazy music, Dionysus?  Or would they be pristine and upright banning such behavior?  Personally, I would hope that on occasion they would embrace Dionysus and do so on a grand scale. 

Ok my friends, although this is anti-climatic, it is nevertheless finito.  Only fiction could bring this fictitious utopian framework alive.

Generation Skip — Education Broad and Open

I want to make it clear that these utopian frameworks and structures do not negate or destroy what currently exists as our world.  In creating these utopian frameworks I am not turning my back on humanity or what humanity represents.  I am not dictating that all of humanity must conform to these utopian frameworks.  These frameworks do not deny or limit what is from continuing on its current course.  In fact, I need what exists and what existed to develop these utopian frameworks.  I view what currently exists and what existed as the parents to these small utopian upstarts.  The greatest gift these parents can bequeath to their children through love is their knowledge and altruistic support.  The parents, if they truly love their children, want them to reach greater heights and fulfillment than they themselves achieved.  Humanity has much to offer their children or utopian frameworks.  Humanity has fought so many battles, reached great heights and also plummeted to great depths, and continues to fight with all of its existence to push forward.  And, as other people have pointed out in comments on previous posts, how do we know that this current human construct isn’t absolutely perfect or exactly as it should be?  Perhaps what exists is complete, natural, as it was meant to be.  As such, I am not destroying what is, I am merely offering a small skip and alternative path that can be possible because of what was and what is.    

The greatest gift humanity has to offer these utopian frameworks are history and knowledge.  History and knowledge encompasses all – art, history, philosophy, religion, architecture, music, language, economics, science, technology, engineering, and the list goes on and on.  I am so grateful for all that humankind has endured and recorded in the form of knowledge and this is the greatest gift we have to offer our children.   So many utopian frameworks attempt to deny what is and what was.  I on the other hand, fully embrace these things and in fact define these things as the ultimate gift, right up there with the earth, the rain, and the sun.  I thank you noble humankind for your ultimate treasure, and I kneel before you in gratitude. 

Now, just as you find that altruistic strain to help the poor, the weak, and the suffering, I also ask you in a similar vein to employ that altruism to support the potential of a strong, healthy, and vibrant upstart culture.  I am asking you to play the role of parent, where the children are given all without expecting money or a return on investment.  Indeed, in time, they will be in a position to become self-sufficient and fly from the nest, but in the beginning, these upstart frameworks are going to need your support on all fronts that involve creating, building, nurturing, and maintaining a small town full of infants and youthful beings.  The key assumption is that money is not part of this construct and the return on investment cannot be measured in terms of financial theories.  All that I ask is that this support come from the most talented and worthy individuals society has to offer, with particular focus on the teachers.  For the teachers would be the most admired, respected, and noblest of professions in these upstart frameworks.    

My key principal for Generation Skip, which is the first generation to occupy these upstarts, is that Education is continuous from birth to death.  Education is the primary goal for Generation Skip.  In order for this goal to be achieved, money and profit cannot be a part of these utopian frameworks.  There must also not be an expectation or defined point where one is pressured to go from learning to doing.  These beings must be given total freedom to absorb, explore, and contemplate the gift of knowledge that we lay generously before their feet — the books, technology, and art that will fill their schools and libraries.  In fact, I wouldn’t impose a time restriction on any one of the following generations in these utopian frameworks where they are required to transition from knowledge absorption, contemplation, and thought formation to action until they have reached a point where they believe they ‘re in a position to begin acting.  For they have much to absorb and contemplate.  It may take several generations to come to terms with what is and what was before they can formulate an intelligent response.  Not only must they absorb what was, what is, but they also must absorb what their previous generation recorded as thoughts about both.  In fact, one could argue that Education is in fact action.  Now we must attempt to describe Education in a very broad sense, for I have already mentioned in the previous post that I do not in fact have answers to the questions posed there.

I envision an educational construct that not only begins at birth and continues up until death, but also one that is extremely broad and open.  Broad incorporates not only a varied curriculum (philosophy, world religions, art, music, math, languages, literature, engineering, economics, astronomy, anthropology, chemistry, et cetera), but also practical and hard work.  Open incorporates not only the education methods where the students constantly learn to ask why am I learning this right now, but it also includes outside excursions, travel, and exposure to real life learning.  I do not envision this generation to be locked up in a temple reading dusty old books isolated from all that exists in the outside world; rather, I envision book reading supplemented with a traveling classroom throughout the world that observes firsthand history, science, art, religion, people, culture, language, nature, and current events.  Education will become life, breathing, exhaling, smelling, touching, seeing, hearing, observing, absorbing, and then ample time to contemplate and compose thoughts in leisure, pleasure, beauty and solitude. 

Education will also incorporate physical work and activities.  They will participate in collecting and disposing of garbage, cleaning dishes, working on farms and ranches, constructing or maintaining buildings, plumbing – they will learn and know how to use their hands as well as their minds.  There is no such thing as child labor laws in these utopian frameworks.  These children and young adults will learn to work to maintain and create the society in exchange for living and learning in that society.  Not only will they learn by doing, but they will also gain an understanding of how things work.  Each one of these beings will be fully capable of surviving on their own if needed but will also develop a sense of how much more can be created when they work in groups or as a whole.  One man can build a house over a certain period of time, but a group of men working together can get the job done in less time to enable additional time to be allocated to other individual or group pursuits.  In practical pursuits, man does not become specialized and focused in one field to serve man; rather, broadly trained men and women tackle practical matters together to free eachother to pursue higher levels of education and or leisure.  

Given this broad and open education, it is clear that these beings will not be confined to prison like structures for eight hours and then returned home with a back pack full of homework which is tossed aside in favor of the TV or X-box and a bag of chips.  These beings will go to some sort of freeing and spiritually uplifting structure for instruction but only for the number of hours that these beings can fully concentrate and absorb what is being taught.  After those instruction hours are complete, they then go about their practical and physical education within the community.  Of course there would be ample time for playing, sports, martial arts, or what have you, but these things would be balanced with other community needs and responsibilities.  The pace of life does not run to a time clock or rigid structures loaded with stress and deadlines; rather, the pace is relaxed, productive, and self-willed.  The time clock is the sun rise and the sun set, the incoming and outgoing tides, the position of the earth relative to the sun. Beings learn how to take the time to communicate and interact with one another, how to savor a moment, how to work and learn together and as individuals for a slow and steady progression forward.  People know one another.  People know what makes each one of them who they are.  People recognize each other’s faces and observe behaviors and deeds which define who each individual is within the community.  People smile and say hello or frown and ignore and mean it.  There isn’t anywhere for a free loader to hide. 

The family unit doesn’t consist of three or four beings in a house isolated to pursue their direction behind closed doors with lightly tied relations with neighbors or friends.  The family unit is expanded to in fact include the community.  As mentioned before, the father and mother are really considered guests in this utopian framework at the upstart.  They serve their roles and contribute like all the other outsiders, but they don’t serve as the primary influence on these young supple beings.  They aren’t taking them to church on Sunday, or to the temple, or to the mosque, or influencing them to pursue practical and safe careers, or mocking their imaginative or misfit notions.  They are present, they are there, to give love and support to promote these young beings pursue their open and broad education.

The next post will discuss the types of questions these educated beings will confront including their potential impact or involvement with the outside world and other upstart utopian frameworks.