The End Of The World As We Know It — Keep Swimming


First a quick nod of thanks to R.E.M. for the song that’s been playing in my head for nearly a month.  Where would we be without our daily life soundtrack….

A few days ago, I posted a short piece to FaceBook that I later added here as a blog entry, talking about how I’ve finally managed to get past the election of Donald Trump, and get on with my life.  In that post, I said I’d had 2 “ah-ha” moments and I explained what I’d learned, then ended by saying there really was a 3rd big AH-HA — but it would take too long to explain in a FB status update.  After all the comments, Likes, private messages, phone calls etc from my friends & FBcontacts, I now realize that just about everybody I know — including even those who don’t live in the US or have US citizenship —  has been experiencing the same kind of PTSD reaction to this year’s election, and that maybe I should have taken the time and explained all three Ah-Ha’s.  Here we are, nearly five weeks after the fact, and people are still either in denial — still expecting some deus ex machina intervention or catastrophe to prevent the coming inauguration — or so deep into depression that they are considering a visit to their doctor to talk about SSRIs.  Or Valium.  or Xanax.  or medical marijuana.  or how to self-administer a lethal injection.

Not those who voted for the Don, I suppose.  But I don’t actually know anybody who voted for him.  Or who will admit to it, anyway.

The worst reactions are coming from those who have either been in abusive relationships and escaped — or those who have lived and/or worked closely with a narcissist.  (Not a slightly self-absorbed average person — a real, live, clinically pathological narcissist.)  For those people, the post-election season is a little like waking up in one of their own nightmare memories.  The evening news is like watching old home movies — playing out on a global scale.  People who have survived a marriage to a narcissist or a business relationship with a narcissist  know what’s coming.  It’s the Big Reveal.  Or the Big Run-And-Hide.  Enemies lists, revenge, retribution, long-game-I’ll-show-you, spiteful jabs, reputation destroying, enemies-closer, cyber-stalking, power-plays, victory laps, pep rallies, loyalty rewards cards, military parades, membership in Biggest Winner Fan Club, mass hysteria, dogs and cats living together….

And they’re right, of course.  All of that is more than possible.  It’s probable.  Likely.  Coming to a theater near you.  And a market near you.  And a street near you.  Everybody needs to have their exit strategy laid out.  Keep the tank full at all times.   Have at least 3-4 weeks of food and water on hand.  Keep blankets and water and an emergency care kit by the door.

This is not a test.

But here’s the other thing that’s just as true:

The model still holds.

I am not going to explain the model in this post.  That would be like explaining particle physics in 20 words or less.  (lol)  It would be a 50 page (conservatively) snooze-a-thon for most folks.  There is a full explanation of the Graves Model here in my blog (start here, if you want the full monty) – but the essentials are these:

  • There is a developmental pattern shared by all of us.
  • The same pattern of human development is shared by groups — families, societies, species.  From individuals to villages, companies to governments, to the global village — each of us, and each of the cultural groups we belong to, all follow the same pattern of evolution.
  • The level of the model an individual operates at is demonstrated by their motivations, beliefs, and behaviors.
  • When the “tipping point” of any level is reached, the person or society that has reached that tipping point moves on to the next level. (much like a simple game, where the tiny explorer fights all the creatures and solves all the puzzles on one level, then discovers the doorway into the next level and so moves on.)
  • The levels alternate between inward focus and outward focus.  That is, Level 1 is all about my own personal survival.  Once that survival is secured, we look around and say “Is that it?  Is that all there is to life?”  And of course, the answer is always, NO.  There is more to life that just my own survival — but I can’t see that until I’m good enough at surviving to look around my own little 2-square-feet of real estate.  And Level 2 is born — the family group or tribe is born.  Level 1 is inward — just me.  Level 2 is outward and inclusive — US.  WE.  We survive and we do it better together.  We take care of our own.  We share the load.  We help each other.
  • Each progressive step upward reaches its threshold asking a question.  Odd numbered levels ask, “Is that all there is?” before moving up to an even-numbered level.  Even numbers ask, “but what’s in this for me?” and then move up to the next odd-numbered level to do inward/individual focus again.
  • Each progressive level is broader and/or more complex than the previous level.
  • The group — the US — of each progressive even number is bigger than the last.  Level 2 is about protecting and building family and tribe.  Level 4 is about protecting and building social order — church, state, laws, written morals etc.  Level 6 is about protecting and building for all humans and other diverse groups, acting together and for one-another.
  • The individual — the ME — of each progressive odd number exhibits a wider range of power, control, and participation in self advancement than simple survival.  Level 3 is about competition, conquest, and winning on the battlefields of sport, war, and pre-capitalist economics.  Level 5 is about competition, conquest and winning on the bigger playing fields of capitalist economics, science, and technology.  Level 7 does not exist yet on a global scale —  we have not reached this level in the broader evolution of our species, but in individual terms, it is about the competition and conquest of ideas.  We are playing on the bigger field of human ideas and understanding.  It is a world of figuring out bigger questions.  Bigger patterns.  Patterns over time and distance.   L3 is pre-capitalist.  L5 is capitalist.  L7 is — you guessed it — post-capitalist.
  • The Graves Model itself, exists at Level 7.  And yes, there is an 8, but neither L1 nor L8 is really relevant or helpful for this discussion, so we’re just going to drop those for now and move on.
  • In general, the harshest critics of any level are those who have just moved to the next level.  Like someone who has just managed to kick an addiction to cigarettes is the first to insist that smokers are enemies of the state.
  • In general, odd numbers see both the previous even number and the next even number as enemies of all they stand for.  L5 tends to see L4’s laws, regulations, and morals as strangling and ridiculously rule-bound; and L6’s concern with “all-those-not-like-me” as wasting their time, money and energy on things that don’t matter to the bottom line.  L3 felt the same way about L2 and L4.  L7 will, if we last long enough as a species, feel the same way about L6 and L8.
  • In general, regardless of what level we exist at, we are able to operate at other levels when called for.  For example, anyone who has survived (L1) is able to shift into L1 when their survival is at stake.  Anyone who has lived at L2 will return to L2 for family gatherings.  Anyone can play tennis at L3.  Everyone probably attends church or balances their checkbook in L4-mode.  There are certain activities that pull us from our general operating level into a level that works best for that particular activity.
  • We all tend to believe that everyone is just like us — but that some are doing it very badly.  L2s think the entire world exists for them to use for their group’s benefit — but some individuals or countries  just don’t understand.  L3 thinks the whole world is there for them to fight, defeat, and conquer — the one with the biggest stick or gun wins.  L4 thinks the world just needs to follow their rules.  L5 thinks money will fix everything.  L6 thinks we are our brother’s keepers, and everyone is our brother — but (L5 especially) just doesn’t get it.  L7 believes they can fix it if they can just figure it out — and any other pursuit is a waste of time.
  • And — this is the important take-away — Every individual, regardless of level, and every social or cultural entity, regardless of level — has one belief in common:


And that, boys and girls, is where war and aggression come from.

And that’s the shortest explanation of the Graves Theory of Human Evolution I can give you.  It’s not complete.  I’ve made some outrageous simplifications.  But that’s the crux of it.  It’s a really REALLY complicated big picture cut down to a page or two of generalizations.

I thought I’d live to see the shift from Graves Level 5 to 6 as the dominant world system.  After all, we’ve been here at L5 since the Renaissance.  Sure, there have been many individuals who have existed happily and well at L6 and L7 for years — but not enough of those individuals for any but a few tiny countries or organizations to move up into L6 en mas.  Large collections of L7s work in close proximity in  few really forward thinking companies, research institutions or colonies, but in general they are Lone Wolf thinkers who specialize in pattern recognition, theoretical scientific work, and systems analysis and theory.

But since the Renaissance, L5 has been the dominant and overwhelmingly persuasive bully on the pitch.  In many cases, it has persuaded us that it is the only game in town — that if it isn’t working, it’s because it is being played badly — and with enough effort and elbow grease, we can get it working the way we want it to work.

But here’s the truth — the pattern holds.

The next step will be the de-throning of L5 as the dominant social system.

We were closer than we’ve ever been to that flip into L6 in 2016 with the candidacy of Bernie Sander for President of the United States.  With Hillary Clinton, we had a candidate who had split her time going back and forth between L5 and L6.  After all, her social ambitions were based firmly in L6 ambitions, but she spent her entire career fighting from within the L5 establishment.  With Donald Trump, we had a candidate playing solidly in L5 (albeit in a significantly unhealthy way.)  HERE is a write-up on Health at any Level.

But Bernie Sanders was a horse of a different color in this race.  He makes no bones about being post-capitalist in a capitalist dominated world.  And he made no bones about pointing out the flaws in that system — for his entire career in politics.  This made him the ideal candidate for all those who have individually moved to the Graves Level where protecting and building a world where everyone is on equal footing — has equal advantages and opportunities — equal rights and protections under the law.  And for the first time in human history, one of the most powerful nations on the planet came very close to shifting from Level 5 to Level 6.  In fact, if the L5 US had been a healthy version of L5, rather than a panic-driven L5 running without the constraints of L4 morality, he might have succeeded.  But neither the Democratic nor Republican parties felt bound by right over wrong, legal or illegal, truth over lie, or fair and just over self-interest.

In short, Bernie Sanders felt bound by the rule of law and the fairness he was running to create.  Neither of the other two major candidates or their parties felt the same way.  Hillary and Trump were running in and for an L5 world.  Bernie was running in hope of an L6 emergence.

So again, THE PATTERN HOLDS.  L6 is where we are all heading, both as individuals and as a species.

One of the biggest bluffs L5 has run on humanity is the hyper-quotable: “Nobody ever said life was going to be fair.”


The idea that life isn’t fair  makes it easy for L5 to take what it wants, regardless of who it hurts.  So long as life isn’t fair — bullies reign.  If we start with the presupposition that there are winners and losers — then it’s okay within that presupposition for most of the population to be losers.  And it’s okay for winners to gloat.  And kick the losers in the butt to make sure they remember their place.

But the presupposition is a lie.  If life is sometimes unfair, it’s because its really really hard, not because it’s impossible.  And creating something that is really really hard and complicated and complex and far-reaching requires a higher Graves Level of complexity than L5 could manage.  It will take L6 — fully formed and reveling in the complications and tangles — to created fairness.

Expect justice to be the motive from healthy L4.

But expect fairness to be the motivation from healthy L6.

So if you are waiting for the  deus ex machina to drop down and save you from Donald Drumph, you can stop waiting.  This is all real and it is all going to happen.  His narcissism is going to be dangerous.  His ignorance is going to be a challenge.  But his presence is going to be.  Period.  The trick is going to be to survive it — both individually, and collectively as a country.  If there is homework, it will be waiting to see how far we can get the pendulum to swing.  Never mind “don’t let that pendulum hit you in the butt as you leave the White House, Donald!”  We want it to hit him so hard that L5 leaves with him as the dominant system in the US, and L6 is the only logical and reasonable step forward anybody can see.

So to all my friends that are still having trouble figuring out how to move on with their lives in a Trumpocracy — just know we are all still here, and the pattern holds.  We may not live to see it, but our children and grandchildren may yet discover that the world really can be a fair place.  A just place.  An honorable place.  A complex puzzle of life rather than a jack-bo0ted torture of a life.

The task ahead — the one that really gets us ahead, rather than earning us a spot in the loony-bin — is to do our best to live lives of fairness and hope, rather than lives of fear and victim-hood.  Do your L6 best — volunteer.  March.  Protest.  Give things away to people who need them.  Donate to organizations with a clear L6 focus and structure.  Support random acts of kindness and fairness.  Participate in your community and group and religion and school.  Feed somebody who’s hungry.  Learn constantly.  Reinvent yourself daily.  Save the planet.  Save the animals.  Save yourself.

In evolutionary terms, the only resolution to advancing complexity is to move to a higher level of existence.   Problems cannot be addressed from the level that created them.  It took L2 to create a place for L1 to live out their survival.  And it took L3 to progress beyond the boundary of the village.  It took L4 to stop L3’s conquests.  It took L5 to reign in L4’s structure.  Similarly, L5 can’t fix L5’s hoarding and bullying.  Only L6 can fix L5 problems.  And only L7 can harness the energy of all those minds and ideas held dear by so many people thinking and creating together.

If we can keep the planet alive long enough, we might be able to all live here together.  The pattern holds, and the pattern is bigger than this election.  It’s also bigger than the US.  Certainly bigger than any one mewling politician or disrupted event.  If you’re still stuck in the politics, pull up higher so you can see the bigger picture.  — and hold on to that bigger picture.  It’s the one that matters.



Even though Dr. Graves’ original research is specific to mature adults, it is still useful to look at how the systems play out in the maturation of children.


Age Range



first few weeks of life complete dependence on others for sustenance and existence. L1 may be best seen while the unborn child is still in the womb. As soon as family connections begin to form, L2 is already emerging.


from a few weeks to as much as 5 or six years, depending on environment complete identification with the family unit. Parents are all knowing and all powerful. Games are non-competitive , such as ring-around-the-rosey and jump rope. (Notice how T-ball is played by very small children as opposed to competitive little league when they cross to L3 and the even more abstract mature baseball with its many rules and exceptions at L4.) Stories teach how to survive the perils of the mysterious outside world. Fantasy and magic are as important as reality.


from as early as 1.5 years to as late as adolescence (beyond in some cultures) Radical independence and competitiveness. Strong ego driven possessiveness. Schoolyard bullies are L3. Early competitive athletes are L3. They first form cliques with leaders and followers. Collection of “trophies” and booty in play. They goal may be to outwit their opponent. Games will become rich with complex strategy, but relatively few rules, like checkers, foot races, marbles, dodge ball, soccer, mother-may-I, and Simon Says.


from as early as 6 or 7, through puberty (and into adulthood) Strong affiliation with the rules of the society and the laws of god or some other religious structure. Will tend to condemn those who break the rules, regardless of the offenders age or circumstance. Love for games with complex rules and / or strategies (chess, Mah Jongg, bridge, war games, complex sports, cooking, or building…) There will be rules for eating. Rules for getting dressed. Rules for school and homework. They should never be allowed to learn to drive until they hit L4 because of the complexities and abstractions involved.


from as early as puberty, into adulthood Still competitive, but the most worthy opponent is the self (or the machine), and the best rewards include: winning, material gain, and winning. Games played on a computer will want “cheats” available so the win is faster. This philosophy may also move into schoolwork. High school and college age students were at L4 until the late 1970’s. Since then, more of that same age group has been at L5, which would explain the rise in cheating, since L4 is getting fairly short shrift. Attention shifts to making contacts over making friends, and using time for profit over fun. Games of extreme challenge become more important, whether the challenge is physical or mental.

ARCHITECTURAL INDICATORS OF CHANGE According to Joseph Campbell, historically, we have constructed buildings which architecturally illustrate our highest priorities and values. In the beginning, our houses were the tallest man-made structures. Then religion built temples and cathedrals. Armies built memorials and monuments. Politics built castles and halls of government. Now, we’ve built skyscrapers in service to materialism, consumerism, and capitalism. Look for the tallest buildings on the horizon to see where the people reside.

One of the things which keeps us from moving into one of these systems and staying there is connected to Graves’ original observation about emergence. When we become dissatisfied with the effectiveness of our current dominant system in dealing with the world around us, whether by “evolution or revolution,” we go on in search of a more effective way to cope. We are constantly in a mode of discovery, adaptation, or change. What that means is that whether our own internal human need for change compels us through the map (evolution), or whether our external situation becomes so immediately complex that it propels us through (revolution) – the net result is the same: growth, change and development.

It also means that we must be sufficiently motivated to leave the comfort and familiarity of our current system for uncharted territory. This is the same kind if dissatisfaction that our American forefathers felt for their mother countries – and it produced in them a kind of resolve that made it reasonable to risk life and limb to cross an ocean, a continent, and all kinds of unpredictable weather and geography – just to get away from the source of their dissatisfaction. That kind of dissatisfaction means that the system we are leaving becomes the most unappealing, disappointing, impotent, and even repulsive way any human could choose to live.

Wyatt Woodsmall says that anyone not where we are (on the Graves map) appears to us to be either criminal or insane. I think it goes even farther than that. Anyone not where we are appears criminal, insane, sinful, stupid, useless, or weak. – and that’s probably exactly the way we seem to them. Most of us have a natural tendency to believe that everyone else is really just like us, but that some of them are doing it very badly. This makes calling them idiots a much easier logical step. In fact, anytime you hear yourself or anyone else using one of those words, it’s probably a good idea to immediately begin looking for the Graves mis-match.

The build up of energy necessary to make the move from L3 to L4, from L4 to L5, or from L5 to L6 (or any of the moves to come) is overwhelming. Often it means leaving the values of our parents or our culture behind. And it is important to remember that these are not changes toward a simpler way of life. Each of these changes is an order of magnitude shift upward in complexity.

How do you spot a change as it is happening? It becomes easier, once you know the map. It also becomes easier once you get a feel for the kinds of things we all say to ourselves to help create – or give voice to – that buildup of energy just before the move occurs.

In the odd systems, we tend to look around at what we have acquired and what we have accomplished (survival of the physical world at L1; competitive and physical dominance of the physical world at L3, with all its booty, trophies, and monuments; management and acquisition of the physical world at L5, with all its prestige, position, possessions and influence…) and say, “Is that all there is? There must be more to life than this….”(And there is.)

In the even systems, we look around at the security of our tribe or our nice safe and orderly society and we say, “Yes, that’s wonderful, but – what in it for me? There must be more to life than this….” (And there is.)

Author Tony Schwartz appeared on Tom Snyder’s Late Late Show on CBS in the spring of 1995 to publicize his book, What Really Matters: Searching for Wisdom in America. He talked about having written Donald Trump’s autobiography a few years earlier, and about having reached a pinnacle of sorts in his chosen field. He was living in a plush apartment in New York. He was rubbing shoulders with all the best and most influential people. He had everything he’d ever wanted. According to Schwartz, however, he reached a point where he “woke up” and heard a question coming out of his mouth: “Is that it? That’s all there is?” According to his book, the question was more like, “Why did the success that he’d fought for so long suddenly feel so empty?” That question propelled him out of his snug L5 existence in search of L6 – and his first glimpses of L7.

While the natural progression of this model is to move forward, it is true and observable in societies, organizations, and individuals that we sometimes choose to move backwards. Why would we make a choice that puts us in a dominant system which we previously left behind because it was inadequate to deal with the complexities of the world around us?

One reason is to find shelter and refuge from hectic and stressful experiences. When we’re under stress, a previous system will always offer a familiar and comfortable rest stop. Life in that earlier system was a more simple life – easier in many ways – and by definition, an order of magnitude less complex. A move to an earlier system can be as brief as a few hours, or it can be a semi-permanent move, taking years to change direction again.

The most obvious of these moves backwards is what happens when catastrophe occurs, whether it is a personal disaster which leaves the individual seriously injured or disabled; or a natural disaster or war which throws an entire culture off its normal developmental track. But sometimes the move backwards is a move of choice. Take the example of an individual who has jumped into L5 with both feet and found repeated failure in both business and personal relationships. If the L5 failure is daunting enough, that person might retreat to the relative safety of L4, where there is stability and security in the laws and norms of an orderly society. It is much easier to live within the rules of L4 with its hope of eternal reward or recognition, than to venture out on your own in the entrepreneurial and rat-race free-for-all of L5.

On a more global scale, watching the former Soviet Union struggle with its L5 capitalism and freedoms is often seasoned with momentary retreats and nostalgic longing for the good old days when the state took care of everything. As bad as the lines for bread and toilet paper may have been, the competitive marketplace of L5 may be more frightening. As often as we hear of our Russian neighbors thinking out loud of their old ways, we see just as many wearing their L5 bravely and forging ahead into a new society and new ways of living. It’s important to remember that any system change is as difficult for a culture as it is for an individual, and it is not unusual to see false starts and temporary retreats from such dramatic change.

Another possible reason for moving backwards is pressure (subtle or not) from peers, friends, and family. It’s very difficult to make any change alone, regardless of whether you are going from an odd level to an even, or from an even level to an odd – though even to odd is slightly easier since the impulse to strike out on our own and express ourselves will sometimes carry us for a while. Even in an odd-numbered system, however, we long for others. As humans, it is our nature to depend on contact and to search for understanding and acknowledgment – even when we are being strikingly independent. As a result, a total absence of system-peers can leave us isolated, even when we are in a crowd. An existence without system-peers may also leave us feeling as though there is no one who really understands us.

As if that weren’t bad enough, it is sometimes our closest friends and family who take it upon themselves to remind us that that we are not like them any more. Remember Wyatt Woodsmall’s observation that anyone not where we are on this model appears criminal or insane. If you are the only L5 in a family of L4’s, you can be sure that they see you as the criminal or insane. Or sinful, stupid, useless, or weak. An L5 in a house of L3 would be an even more radical difference and the L5 would probably be banished as the black sheep of the family.

While it is possible to maintain relationship where there is system difference, it takes work. This is especially true in marriage. A lot of what we, in the modern world, have called “growing apart” is really just a situation where one in the relationship has changed systems and the other hasn’t. In a marriage, there may be pressure from both directions – both on the one who has changed to come back to the system left behind, an on the one who did not change to “catch up.”
When the family involved is more than a husband and wife alone – whether it’s an extended family, or a tribe or “gang” of friends – when there is an established group with expectations, the pressure to return to old ways can be overwhelming. Continued pressure can result in a move backward, or it may just result in a move away from the source of the pressure. A family or tribe which cannot live with a criminal or insane system renegade may drive that person to go in search of another family – one which accepts and understands their new way of dealing with the world.

Furthermore, the emergence of repressions at the end of a stage brings a flood of neglected attitudes and data from earlier levels, likely to sweep one back temporarily toward those levels. This regression, however, helps to integrate the forgotten affects and information, so that it can form a firmer foundation for the next level,

In order to gain enough momentum to propel yourself into a new and uncharted existence, you must first build up sufficient evidence that the current system is ineffective against the level of complexity around you. This means that the system left behind must be seen as impotent, criminal, insane, sinful, stupid, useless, and weak. And it will, at least for a while, be seen as the most criminal and insane of all possible existences and the biggest waste of time in the universe. In its most extreme form, this departure energy will generate a kind of “system amnesia,” where all memory of ever having been motivated by that system is hidden or completely obliterated.

During that period of amnesia, the only qualities of a system that can be seen are the negative ones. All the positive learnings and experiences disappear. All the historical examples of success by the offending system appear murky and suspect, as do our closest friends who cling to that faulty existence. While this proximity generates negative feelings, distance generates nostalgia. It is our destiny to separate from the preceding system with the same vigor that a teenager experiences when separating from his parent(s) for the first time.

Nothing appears more distressing (or disgusting) to a newly minted L5 than the rigidity and holier-than-thou righteousness of L4. Nothing causes more worry for the orderly and proper L4’s than the chaos, short-sightedness, violence, and unbridled revelry of L3. Nothing is weaker and more revolting to an aggressive L3 than the interdependence and naive trust of L2. In that same tradition, nothing is more repulsive to L6 than the self centered-ness, extravagance, and greed of L5.

We all assume everyone else is just like us. Except some of them are doing it very badly.

Anyone not where we are, systemically, is criminal, insane, sinful, stupid, useless, or weak.

While this is fairly easy to recognize on an individual, one-on-one basis, it also applies at the macro level. Globally, no error is as dangerous as assuming that other nations, other peoples, other cultures – have the same motivations that we do. We recognize that their problems of existence are different from ours. We recognize that their coping methods and mechanisms are different from our own. Yet we often make the costly error of assuming that deep down, they want the same things we do.

Whoever “we” are, and wherever on the map “we” are – the driving force for a capitalist L5 society is far different than the motivating force for an emerging L3 and its armies. An “enlightened” L6 neo-socialist government has little motivationally in common with its L4 military-bureaucracy cousins. The currency may travel through the same banks. The grain may be ground into the same flour. The weapons may shoot the same bullets.

But the reasons are different.

To assume that every nation that opposes the greed and gluttony of capitalism gone wild are in some way allies, working toward a new world order, is an error beyond measure. Systems may use each other toward a superficially common end, but this should never be mistaken for alliance. L3 does not ally itself – it only uses. That is equally true for L4, L5, and L6. On a grand political and economic scale, and even on a personal and individual scale – such attempts at alliance are nothing more than masks. To reform or eliminate the criminal. To cure or secure the insane. To convert or damn the sinful. To educate or enslave the stupid. To train or inter the useless. To strengthen or conquer the weak.

Not only do we believe they are all like us and simply need our help to do a better job of it, deep down, we know that everyone should be like us. And this system arrogance and elitism is present at every level.

While L5 may be the dominant global force, much energy and thought is being spent on how the next move forward will occur. – And it is important that we know the shift is out there, lying dormant, waiting for life conditions to surpass L5’s capacity to manage. But it is also important to remember that it is just as possible that those life conditions will send the world reeling backwards. Into L4. Or L3. To predict an idealistic L6 society is an interesting exercise, and to assume it is a sure bet – is catastrophic.

Growing tired of pretend anger….

and pretend fear.  and pretend compassion….  There are better shows on Broadway if I want to see people acting.

20 years ago, as a single parent, I was planted firmly in the lower class ranks of the US Tax Code.  As a result, for over 10 years I did not pay income taxes.  In fact I got money back in the form of “earned income credit” — they were so glad I wasn’t on welfare, and that I consistently held down a job, the IRS sent me some money so I’d keep trying.  And I did.  We ate a lot of pasta and rice and beans.  All my furniture was used.  My car was used.  My apartment floor was rotted so you could see the first floor living room from the 2nd floor bath tub.  The gas leaked.  The faucets leaked.  The roof leaked.  The electricity didn’t work in 1 room and the lights wouldn’t turn off in another.  We never made long distance phone calls.  We never bought any food we weren’t going to eat that day or the next because of the bugs.  We didn’t go shopping or have a Christmas tree.  My doctor was a lovely man who didn’t really need all my money, so he charged on a sliding scale.  I was uninsured, and so I paid $15 total for office visits — the result was that my son and I got to go to the doctor when we needed to.

Then one day, I started making money.  I made more money in 2 years than I’d made in the previous 15.  And those years I paid taxes.  Quite a bit of tax.  It came as a real shock to be asked for 40-45% of what I’d earned.  But I knew it was coming, and there was a feeling of — maybe pride? — that my years as an adult were evening out.  I also made a point of paying back the other spheres of “tight money” I’d been opting out of by donating bags full of toys to the local Toys-For-Tots Christmas collection, and more toys to the local Ronald McDonald Houses.  In cafes and eateries, I started leaving 20-25% tips to make up for the 3-5% (if any) I’d left for hard-working waiters in my lean years (on the rare occasions when I’d find myself in a restaurant.)  I assume that’s how it works in the long run.  Those who have, make up for those who only have a little.

Then, at a lapse of a few weeks between old insurance coverage, and what was to be its replacement policy — my little family was run over by a serious illness, and within 5 months, my savings, my son’s college fund, and pretty much everything I had was gone.  And — I was back to not paying income tax again.  In fact, I was back to far worse than I’d been before because so much of the time I had to stay home and be a caregiver — so there was less money coming in.

Everybody survived but my finances.  But time passes.  I was working as a substitute teacher and going back to college when I met my husband, Jim, and the world stopped being such a scary place again.  There are a lot of people not lucky enough to fall in love with a sweet, infinitely kind, stable and single college professor.  I wasn’t going to end up on the street without him — but I was probably going to end up in an asylum — or just dead.

In financial terms, when I remarried, I was suddenly back in the household income category that paid taxes.  Not a lot, by comparison to my flush years, but a good, middle class income.  I started a retail toy business while the Clinton budget was still in place (and before 9/11) and so reaped the run-off of the plump economy for about 4 years.

War has a bad effect on the toy market.  Especially one with as much debt as Iraq was stacking up, and no end in sight.  Each year of the W. Whitehouse, we made less and less in the toy store, until finally, we stayed open one last year, even though we were losing money, just to keep our one and only employee employed until she knew what was next in her life.  We closed the doors in May of 2010, and that was that.  We gave the leftover toys to the local Childrens Home, the Foster Care folks, Bikers Against Child Abuse (they carry little plush animals in the pockets of their biker jackets), the Stork’s Nest (where teenage mothers are taught the basics), and the Childrens Advocacy Center (where traumatized and abused children are taken to give legal statements and to receive therapy.)

So once again, for the last 5 years, we have not paid income taxes because the toy store wasn’t making money.  And we probably won’t pay taxes this year — because we lost so much money in the end.

But after that — who knows.

The point is — over my working lifetime, the amount of taxes I’ve paid has just about equaled the amount of taxes Jim paid.  His was always taken out of his paycheck like everybody else who works a steady job.  Mine was a little more complicated — but it evened out.

And as far as I can tell, almost nobody we know paid taxes last year beyond Social Security and incidental amounts.  We lost money when we closed the store, and had half-a-store full of toys to give away.  But everybody that worked last year got special tax incentives and deductions, and so may have paid some tax — but a much smaller percentage than previously.

The lower class — the people where I was when I was a young, single mother — don’t pay anything but payroll tax anyway, and will probably get that back as “earned income”, or a refund in the end. In the middle-class range, anybody from 80k down is just paying payroll taxes, or the lower rungs of the tax ladder — so they aren’t being squeezed outrageously.

The real money comes from people who are doing very well, thank you.  People who work hard, buy nice houses, new cars every couple of years, fashionable clothes for their kids, cars for their kids, new furniture every few years, vacations, plane tickets, meals out every day for lunch and several evenings a week, have elective cosmetic surgery, housekeepers, big toys like motorcycles, hunting trips for sport, season tickets to their favorite sports team, movies, a phone for every member of the household, a computer in every room of the house — and plenty.  That’s the word I’m looking for.  Plenty.

I said all that to say this.

I was in my car yesterday and the car in front of me had a sticker on its back window.  I say the car had a sticker — the truth is, the person driving the car had the sticker.  The car was an innocent victim.  It said:

And did I mention the car was a brand new, dealer-plated, 4-wheel drive sport utility vehicle.

I don’t mean to be rude (yes I do) but if you’re driving a gas guzzler straight off the dealer lot in the current economy, no, you haven’t paid enough taxes already.

Those who have plenty, make up for those who don’t have enough.  That’s the way it works.  Sometimes you’re the have and sometimes you’re the have not — and you can’t control which every day of your life.

2 days ago, our local food bank called the local TV outlets to say that they had less than 2 weeks of food left.  Usually, they make it through the summer on the produce of their little farm which is worked by volunteers, but this year, the flooding ruined the crops. And… instead of 500 clients a week, they are seeing 700+ because of the economy.  So we loaded up our car with groceries and headed over there.  They were happy to see us — and several other folks were doing the same thing.  This morning, the regional grocers donated food by the truckload, and promised to match up to $10K in donations made by customers at the register.

Those who have plenty, make up for those who don’t have enough.  That’s the way it works.

What doesn’t work is put-on outrage.  If the lower class isn’t paying taxes, and the middle class below 80k isn’t paying much — then who is it that’s making and wearing these bumper stickers on their new sports utility vehicles?

It’s a trick question.  We already know the answer.  There are only 3 groups who could be doing this.
1.  People making plenty, or plenty+
2. People who don’t really know how much tax they paid last year or who don’t really know what the current tax rates are and why
3. People running fast to jump on a passing bandwagon

Regardless of which group they fall in — these are not people who are pinched to the point of hunger, doing without, or poverty.  Their tax rate is not moving them from the HAVES column to the HAVE NOTS column.  Their tax rate is not keeping them from eating what they want tonight.  Or from going to the doctor, the mall, or the private school tomorrow.

The SUV driver was a white, 40-something, driving during the middle of the day, and driving in town.  I’m sure their income is well deserved and they work hard for it.  I’m sure they have a rocky, hill-y, dirt road farm that needs a utility vehicle and all the gas it drinks on a daily basis. (we live in a desert.) I’m sure they resent like hell having to pay their taxes while single parents, and those going through family illness and crises get their taxes back in refunds and EICs.  I’m sure they resent having to pay a higher percentage of their higher income into the pool than their lower-income counterparts.

And I’m sure that they resent that they have no direct way to specify what their taxes pay for or don’t pay for.  They don’t want to pay doctors to give good health care to lazy people who won’t work, or people who don’t eat right or people who have long-term diseases or health conditions, or people who work at stupidly dangerous jobs.  They don’t want to pay for rebuilding the power grid and the infrastructure of utilities, roads, water resources etc.  They don’t want to pay teachers, firefighters, police, or other public servants raises negotiated by unions.

But they probably do want the police to come when they hear somebody coming through their back gate.  And they do want other people’s children to be educated — because if they weren’t, then they’d all be too stupid to work and pay their own way.  So they want humanitarians to go into poorer neighborhoods and teach those children.

They want the social contract — but they don’t want to pay for it.  They want a standing army.  They want to be able to storm into a country that hasn’t attacked us and isn’t threatening us, so we can give them freedom from their misguided ways and terrible peer-pressure induced religion, and offer them the free gift of democracy.  But they don’t want to pay for it.  Or maybe they do want to pay for that, but they don’t want to pay Social Security benefit to people who have been paying into the system for a lifetime.  Maybe they want to pay for a war, but not the salaries of judges who might give rights to the wrong people….

I’m just reallly reallllly tired of false outrage.  Of people saying they are outraged about taxes, when what they are really afraid of is not being in control of the money they contribute to the general fund.  They want their hard earned dollars to be in a special fund, they control, and they direct.

And that would work, right?

I’m tired of people pretending to be revolutionaries.  Obviously they haven’t read much about real revolutionaries.  Revolutions don’t happen just because you and your plenty-fied friends are pissed off because their party isn’t in power at the moment.  And revolutions don’t happen because a bunch of your friends meet at a picnic and decide to print pseudo-outrage on 5×12″ bumper stickers, lapel buttons, and Facebook pages.

“Revolution! Ooooo, it gives me shivers! Let’s go talk about it over lobster ravioli and margaritas….”

I’m sorry.  Those who have plenty, make up for those who don’t have enough.  That’s the way it works.  Any other way, and it stops working.  If you want to see revolution, then break the social contract with all the single parents, devoted caregivers, retirees, public servants, unemployed, underemployed, uneducated, undereducated, hungry, disabled, and unable — and their families.  There is nothing on earth as scary or as dangerous as someone who has nothing and therefore nothing to lose — and that’s where real revolutions are born.  Not on the back windows of new, gas guzzling sport-utility vehicles.

Saturday afternoon revolutionaries… are not my cup — well — you get the idea.