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When I was young, (yes, electricity had already been discovered and was in general use) there was term often used by newspapers and other media to disparage or otherwise shame certain members of society. That term was “being on the dole” and it came to signify those unfortunates that were having a tough time financially and required governmental assistance to get thru the transactions of day-to-day living. That phrase originated in England in 1917 and was in reference to benefits being “doled” out by the government to generally poor souls that couldn’t otherwise provide for themselves. Since the U.S. at the time, had a hard-core, laissez-faire, capitalistic type of thinking ingrained into most people’s psyches, having to receive government assistance was considered especially shameful. The mark of a slacker, one too lazy or otherwise too indolent to provide for themselves. Indeed, according to newspapers that were published in those days, no criminal’s deeds were as heinous as that of someone “being on the dole.”

With the advent of FDR’s New Deal, however, the use of that term began to lose it’s luster. It turned out that with the creation of Social Security and Medicare legislation, virtually all seniors were eventually “on the dole,” so to speak. More social programs regarding veterans benefits, student loans, housing and other government assistance came into being, so it seemed almost everyone “was on the dole” at some point in their lives, and that inglorious phrase was eventually tossed into the dustbin of history. It was to some degree revived in a new form during the Ronald Reagan administration in the 1980s. The term “welfare queens” suddenly came into existence as racist code to denote single black mothers who were supposedly having babies out of wedlock in order to receive larger government welfare checks. When it was pointed out that the preponderance of welfare payments were being made to white people, that derogatory phrase also faded from the public forum. But the on-going efforts of the fortunate to stigmatize the unfortunate in some shape or manner continues on unabated.

This is kind of a long way around to come to the main point of how genetics is often the determining factor in the way our lives will unfold and the destinies in store for all of us. Some time back I wrote a piece called “Genetic Predispositions” which still receives “views” years later, and I thought I would update the original with additional insights. In the original, I cited some extreme examples of how one’s genes are often the determining factor of the life being led. How, due to genetic malfunction, some fetus brains are bathed in an overdose of serotonin while in the womb. Hence, when these individuals grow into adulthood, they cannot derive pleasure or comfort from those activities that normally satisfy most of us, and thus, are often likely to turn out to be brutish rapists or serial killers to satisfy their lusts. Even when the brain develops normally, genetic make-up is usually the name of the game.

Those whose DNA is formed with a talent for fiscal matters often do the best in our capitalistic society. Bankers, Wall Street brokers, hedge fund managers, entrepreneurs etc. often accomplish the most financially, and are able to lead the most luxurious materialistic lives. Not that such bountiful materialism necessarily translates into lifelong happiness and serenity. Just ask those who knew Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson or Whitney Houston for starters. All four of whom had not only acquired immense riches, but, also millions of adoring fans and worldwide fame; but still managed to kill themselves at a fairly young age. On the the other hand, those whose DNA thrusts them into the artistic side of human performance usually receive the short end of the stick from a capitalistic oriented society. Very few writers, artists, musicians, etc. receive just compensation for their efforts and often live in poverty throughout their lives. This could also result in early demise. Think Vincent Van Gogh or Edgar Allen Poe, neither of whom caught a break as far as public recognition of their talents while they were still alive, and who also died at an early age

Most of the rest of us are somewhere in the middle, living anywhere from relatively lower middle class, to reasonably comfortable lifestyles, depending on the talent programmed into our DNA. But what I didn’t mention last time are the environmental factors that one grows up with, that also have a huge influence on our future lives, and must be considered along with genes as one of life’s determining forces. An Irish poet put it best when he wrote that “They fuck you up your Mum and Dad; they fuck you up real good.” Those coming from abusive or dysfunctional homes where parents might be alcoholics, druggies, or child molesters, hardly have a chance in life, no matter how strong their genes may be. Some hearty, brave souls do manage to escape an horrendous upbringing, however, and go on to thrive in life.

It the end it virtually all comes down to a matter of genetic inheritance and environmental upbringing. I think, though, that genes are more of the determinant factor. As for me, at this stage of my life, I’m quite content to be “on the dole” and receive my government benefits.

Categories: A malfunctioning psche, Economics, Health Care, Obamacare, human affairs, politics, Ronald Reagan, the Depression | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


The wife and I went to see “The Great Gatsby” over this past weekend. This is about the fourth iteration Hollywood has produced of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous novel. Overall, I would rate the movie, maybe a B-. There was lots of glitter and glitz, as the movie tried to capture the flamboyance of the 1920s. Lots of  ostentation, great costuming and hair styling, and great ornate design work in the mansions that housed the over-the-top partying that occurred among the rich and famous of the 1920s. But the movie came up short on substance. Indeed, it seemed to be glorifying the very flamboyant life-style that Scott Fitzgerald was condemning in his novel. Which was the phoniness, boredom, cynicism, and lack of purpose that existed among the upper crust at that time. And likely still does to this day.

The story takes place in one of the great mansions built by one of the ultra rich, (a rather mysterious fellow named Jay Gatsby) in the Hamptons on Long Island. One must have millions piled on top of millions just pay the property taxes levied on one of these properties; and today the Hamptons are still considered one of the top playgrounds of the rich and famous. Back in the 1920s, the rich would throw huge, lavish parties in these mansions to distract themselves from the lack of meaning in their lives. Daisy, who is Gatsby’s love interest, at the outset admits she’s bored and cynical about everything in life. So what better distraction than to throw huge, lavish parties, with bootleg booze flowing like the River Ganges, lots of ear-splitting music, and continually doing the Charleston to wile away the blues. This type of superficiality  and shallowness is the essence of Fitzgerald’s condemnation. New money often made in the in the booming stock market or through selling bootleg liquor, vied with old money ( you know, guys like the Rockefellers, Morgans and Carnegies, etc.) to see who could garner the most attention and publicity for living ostentatiously. Today it’s more the style to keep this type of ostentation under wraps. Too many bad guys around that would like to get in on the action.

Scott Fitzgerald’s life is an interesting story in itself. Like many artists, he enjoyed only the very modest of successes during his short lifetime. Being a heavy drinker with health problems, he died of a heart attack at the tender age of 40. “Gatsby’s” success as a great American novel wouldn’t be realized until well after he was gone. In that, he joined a large list of artists, writers and composers who often died penniless, with the greatness of their works not recognized until well after their deaths. Van Gogh is a prime example. In any event, Fitzgerald’s life was often overshadowed by his flamboyant wife Zelda. She came from Southern money, and gave drinking and partying a whole new dimension. The Fitzgeralds were part of the American expatriate group of artists living in Paris during the 1920s. These included Hemingway, of course, as well as Gertrude Stein, Henry Miller, Salvatore Dali, and several others. Besides trying to become famous for their works, the expatriates were known for their heavy drinking and partying. Not as lavish as those parties in the Hamptons, but quite legendary in their own right. And chief among the heavy drinkers was Zelda Fitzgerald . She and Scott had a tempestuous marriage and eventually separated. Zelda was finally diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and spent many years in and out of mental institutions. She also died at a fairly young age, in her 50s, I believe. If you’re interested in capturing the flavor of what life was like among the expatriates, it’s shown in a movie that came out several years ago- Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris.”  A really, really good movie compared to this current version of “Gatsby.”

Compared to life today, the 1920s were almost an era of serenity. It was after the conclusion of WWI and America quickly dis-armed and went back to being an isolationist nation. After all, being surrounded by two large oceans would preclude us from getting into any further foreign entanglements, or so the thinking went. About the biggest worry on people’s minds was wether Babe Ruth would break the home run record by hitting 60 homers in one season, which he did in 1927. Both business and the stock market were booming. Prohibition was in effect which made obtaining and drinking bootleg liquor that much more fun. The roadways began to proliferate with that new-fangled invention, the automobile, which was made famous by Henry Ford’s Model T. There was lots of cash to be made in the stock market since everyone knew that stocks could only go one way, and that was up, right? The Government did virtually nothing, but who cared? Everyone was doing so well. Calvin Coolidge was President for 6 years in that decade, and actually cut the Government budget by  the time he left office. ( I wrote a previous piece about Silent Cal’s tenure as President if you’re interested in more detail.)

And then one day, this great American dream of peace and prosperity evaporated like the morning mist. The stock market crashed in 1929, and people’s lives, by the tens of millions, were virtually destroyed, almost overnight. People were jumping out of buildings to their death, as mind-numbing poverty slowly oozed over the nation, and covered the landscape. They stopped doing the Charleston in the Hamptons. Even in foreign affairs America’s dreams of being an isolationist nation began to disintegrate, as the twin evils of Hitler’s Nazism in Europe, and Japan’s militarism in the Pacific, marched ahead with unstoppable relentlessness.

Today there are those that would like to to return American society and Government back to those simpler days of the 1920s. When one could make a fast buck in the stock market and live flamboyantly with great ostentation. Who wouldn’t want that. But it’s never going to happen. The Tea Party movement which made such a big splash in 2010 has delusional dreams that somehow the clock can be set backwards. But life now has become so much more complex and complicated, that going back to the days of Silent Cal is a monumental pipe dream. The war against terrorism is an example of today’s complexities. Besides we all know how well life turned out the way it was lived in the 1920s.



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