Automation: The Real Job Killer of American Manufacturing.

Part 1 of a 2 part series for the Good Men Project.

I am an optimistic believer in the possibility of an America which can move forward unified, despite the differences we have in race, class, education, the list goes on ad infinitum. But first, I need to try to understand the people who I did not agree with on Election Day. This section of the population I may have little in common with on a core issue that does not directly affect me. A healthy future depends on how well we try to understand one another regardless of our differences.

In this two part series I set out to explore job loss in the manufacturing industry; an industry which once provided good jobs with decent pay to many of the working class men in the rust belt and southern regions of the United States. A great deal of time and effort was devoted to this issue on the campaign trail and the debate became a hot button issue.

Like many other baffled Americans, I was fascinated with the passion and adoration Trump supporters had for him. Many of these supporters were white, working class males from the rust belt and southern states, a large and specific section of the population that feel forgotten by Washington D.C.

While the exit polls continued to roll out it didn’t take long after November 8th to figure out why this specific demographic had supported Trump with intensity and fervor. Trump’s message on the campaign trail and the lines of people who came out in droves to vote for him began to align as the whole picture came into focus.

Donald Trump’s campaign was built on the foundation of statements that were emotionally charging rather than factually accurate. One of his earliest claims that remain part of the bedrock of his platform is that China and Mexico are responsible for the massive hemorrhaging of U.S. manufacturing jobs. He claims that U.S. companies have opted out of the American labor force and have moved their plants overseas to take advantage of cheap labor.

Like much of what Trump says, this statement does not tell the complete story, nor is it beneficial to the millions of working class men once employed in manufacturing. On the contrary it serves as a war drum beat to rally support behind his agenda.

The real job killer of American manufacturing is automation. Robots, not the Chinese or Mexicans, are responsible for the shrinking of manufacturing jobs. These jobs are mostly in male dominated industries and were once a way for people who were not skilled workers or college educated to make a decent living with healthcare and benefits.

In the manufacturing industry, which has been decimated by automation, men hold 73% of factory jobs. In April of 2016 the Congressional Research Service, whose research influences many of the bills that pass through the Legislature, published their report “U.S. Manufacturing in International Perspective.”

The report showed that the United State is second to only China in global manufacturing output, yet since 1990 U.S. employment in manufacturing is down 31%. The report also states “The United States saw a disproportionately large drop

between 2000 and 2010, but its decline in manufacturing employment since 1990

is in line with the changes in several European countries and Japan.” Shrinking of employment in manufacturing is a worldwide trend that is not exclusive to America.

The manufacturing industry in America is alive and well, we are producing more goods than ever before. Due to automation it is no longer necessary to employ thousands of factory workers to do the same job that a few robots can do. Not to mention those robots can work 24/7 without taking breaks, getting hurt, or requiring benefits. Technology is being used globally to increase productivity at the price of displacing workers.

As the tide of automation rises, as it has been for decades, more workers are laid off, houses are foreclosed, and the American dream becomes an abstract concept rather than a practical reality. It also leaves large numbers of mostly working class men justifiably angry and in need of a solution.

Per usual, politicians exploit the situation to capture power. They preach to the unemployed, disenfranchised, and the ones who feel left out by the current political system. Their illusion of a solution is to blame immigrants and foreigners; it’s much more emotional and dramatic than blaming the robots. More importantly it garners support, funds campaigns, and motivates millions to vote for them.

I can’t exclusively fault Trump for promoting this message. While the way in which he does it is highly unsettling, his exploitation of a vulnerable group and subsequent claim of a tangible solution is a tactic politicians on both sides of the aisle have been using since ink dried on the Constitution.

While the exploitations and false promises are not new trends in the world of politics, automation is a relatively new trend affecting employment. Next week I will take a look at the social implications and social support programs of those who are displaced by automation as well as what it means for the future of employment.

Shedding Old Ideas Of Masculinity: Getting Back To Who We Are At Our Core.

Published on the Good Men Project.

Masculinity as society defines it is a dubious concept. Through self examination and the questioning of our beliefs, we can arrive at a much healthier definition of manhood.

Growing up my folks told me I could be anything I wanted, if I was willing to work hard enough for it. My father showed me, through his actions, what it meant to be a man of integrity, fairness, and resolve. He taught me that I should treat all people with kindness, and treat women the same way I’d want my mother or sister to be treated.

I wish I could say I have been all of those things all of the time. But I haven’t. Show me a man who thinks he has, and I’ll show you one who hasn’t done enough self-examination. We are all humans, and as such we make mistakes, and hopefully learn from them.

The lessons our parents teach us, as noble as they may be, are only a small part of what we learn. As we grow through adolescence we spend less time with our parents and more time with our peers. We begin to venture out into society on our own and become subject to different ideas of what it means to be a man.

Society has a whole set of norms it wants to impose on men. Conformity to the generally accepted principles of masculinity is a priority because it holds the status quo and maintains stability. This is in direct conflict with nature.

Nature wants conflict and resolution. A constant cycle of conflict and resolution in which the dominant, most useful traits perpetuate, and those, which do not serve the species, recede into the dark by the tide of evolution.

From even a biological stand point it is puzzling that we as a society continue to pass along detrimental and toxic ideas of masculinity to our boys.

But nevertheless, I was thrust into society. I went to school, made friends, and picked up a whole new set of principles of manhood. I grew up playing partially violent, full contact sports like lacrosse and wrestling. I hung out with other kids who played sports.

What society told me about my niche of man was that I was to be tough and never express any emotions other than happy and angry. I wasn’t supposed to acknowledge any weaknesses I may have and I definitely wasn’t supposed to write songs or poetry. I also had to be a ladies man while still maintaining loyalty to my male friends at all times. It all seems a lot to ask a kid who is barely old enough to drive a car.

College was a different animal altogether. To make a long story short it was like all those things I was told when I was a teenager, but amplified and turned up to eleven. Take that hotchpotch and add copious amounts of substances to it and you have quite an unhealthy perception of manhood.

Now I find myself in my mid twenties. I’m a few years removed from the mayhem of college, and have transitioned into a somewhat normal, fully functional adult. I have a full time job and I pay my bills and taxes.

Those few years between college and the present moment have been one long stare in the mirror. I’ve subjected myself to one new experience after another and have traveled far out of my comfort zone. Within two months of graduating college I picked up and moved across the country to Los Angeles, where I knew no one. I decided that I didn’t want to go to law school after all and instead chose to pursue my passion for writing.

Getting out of my comfort zone and subjecting myself to new and different ideas revealed a lot to me about myself. It allowed me to un-package who I thought I was and what I thought it meant to be a man.

The uncomfortability of stepping outside what I had always known forced me to look in the mirror and ask myself “Who are you?” and more importantly “Who do you want to be?”

I discovered that I wasn’t the man society told me I should be. I looked back at my past behaviors and figured out I could keep the good ones and discard the ones that didn’t suit me anymore.

Life tends to come full circle in some sort of weird harmonious way; and I came to the realization that who I really was at my core, and who I’ve always wanted to be, is the man that my father showed me how to be long ago.

Modern society frowns upon self-critique and self-examination. We live in the social media age, where people only share his or her shining successes. It’s all a grand façade, as everyone faces obstacles all along the way. But still, failure is shunned and admitting mistakes is viewed as weakness.

Above all, society does not want you to question your life long beliefs. If enough people began to question their perception of masculinity, or any number of their tightly gripped beliefs, society as a whole would change. Society does not want change; it wants conformity.

But wide scale change is as natural as the concept of evolution itself. There’s no end on the evolutionary spectrum and humans are not exempt from this.

The next phase of human evolution will be a mental one. Many of society’s constructs just don’t suit us as a species anymore. Many of the principles of what it means to be a man will have to go. Widespread change always follows individual cases of change, and as men we owe it to ourselves and to those around us to look in the mirror and ask ourselves “What kind of man am I?” and “What kind of man do I want to be?”

Is the Conversation of Privilege and the Politically Correct Movement Really Beneficial?

Posted in my weekly column “Through Our Eyes” found here.

College campuses are great places for innovative thought. They can also be like old tattered sponges that pick up whatever theory is deemed “progressive” at the time. As a political science major, the big one for us was the checking of privileges. I remember my first week of my government and politics introduction class. The professor came in and began a long rant about systematic advantages many of us had as white heterosexual males. He yelled, “Check your privilege!”

I remember thinking in that moment “Well I didn’t get to pick my parents, race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation before I was born and I also didn’t pick to which country I was born. I surely didn’t choose the systems in place in that country. So why are you yelling at me?”

He went on to say “You have to be aware of it!” To which I thought, “This guy doesn’t even know my name. I literally have to write my name in sharpie on a paper name tag. So how does he know how aware or unaware I am?”

And therein lies the problem. The assumption of privilege is that everyone who falls into the privileged group is an active participant in maintaining privilege and ensuring no one else enjoys similar privileges.

The modern movement of political correctness thrives off of victimization and guilt. People with power – politicians, ideologues, those with agendas of various shapes and sizes tell some people they are victims and others that they are guilty. They push identity politics and a type of thought crime enforcement straight out of George Orwell’s 1984.

I have friends of all different backgrounds and when we hangout I don’t analyze my privilege in relation to them. We go get tacos, watch the game and have some laughs. I don’t sit at lunch and feel guilty for my white heterosexual privilege, nor do I try to identify the structures of oppression that affect them. We are equals. Anything else would be superficial and make for awkward friendships. People want to be treated with kindness and respect. I know of few people of any background who consciously think about the institutional inequalities of society when they are carrying on their daily routines.

Most people just want to work hard, provide for their families and enjoy life. Indoctrinating an idea of inherited victimization to one set of groups while indoctrinating guilt into another set about factors they have no control over is a losing game. The message we should be sending is one of self-empowerment. Self-empowerment happens within us and is durable regardless of outside conditions. Political correctness and the war on privilege is just a new tactic of division and control, as it empowers no one.

Freedom and equality are never obtained through censorship and the putting down of others. Those are competing ideas. Freedom and Equality are obtained through rigorous work and struggle. Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Amelia Earhart, and all who have followed have proved that. The people who are creating change don’t do it by playing the victim. They do it by being great at whatever they do, not by censoring people or legislating behavior. Their self-empowerment breaks barriers and creates real change, which in turn empowers others.

I have grown up with a powerful movement of political correctness. I’ve lost track of how many people I’ve seen lose their jobs for off the cuff, coarse comments that apparently justify no hope for redemption. These people seem to just disappear into the ether. Their legacies forever tarnished, their successes disregarded.

As a young male this has a chilling affect on my relationships. Anything can be deemed offensive or inappropriate; making it difficult to express myself for fear of being attacked for whatever innocent missteps I may make.

There are very real structures of oppression in this country. The drug war and the segregation of American cities are two off the top of my head. Political correctness and soapbox speeches about privilege aren’t going to solve real issues like those.

The Infrastructure of Tyranny.

The latest article in my column for the Good Men Project.

Most people I know are not strict ideologues of one set of ideas or another. People generally have beliefs that straddle party lines. I personally have some beliefs that align with the Republicans and others the Democrats. It’s been my experience and observation that the majority of people fall into the same category. But in our political system there are only two options, and people are forced to vote for one side or the other.

Today more than ever, we’re a divided nation. Race, gender, religion, sexual orientation are the major lines that come to mind.

There are many outside forces influencing and furthering those divides. The media, political parties, and corporations play a major part in the peddling of division amongst the people, each with their own motives for doing so.

I frequently read articles that discuss how alarming the current social and political climate is. The problem is not a well-hidden secret, we are all more or less in agreement of it. So then why do we continue to actively participate in our own division?

The answer appears clear to me. It is because we like to be right. Especially when discussing politics, it has now become more important to be right than to be effective.

In the past, the right brought ideas to the table, as did the left, and they compromised somewhere in the middle for the greater good of the nation. In the current state of politics in America, we have passed the tipping point where it is now more desirable to further ideology and partisan politics, than to compromise.

This problem is not a Republican or Democrat problem. Both parties are equally guilty of participating in this form of governing. Remember how Obama-care got passed? What about the several times the government was shutdown the last eight years?

The country is moving incrementally towards political extremes. The political parties have their own extreme factions, the tea party conservatives and the ultra progressive liberals. Both of which are now gaining power and influence. The right and left wings have their own media outlets, which push their agendas.

What most people don’t realize is that the political spectrum is not a line, but rather a circle, and by going too far in one direction you come out on the other side. The middle ground is at the bottom of the circle. Each side, right and left, gets more extreme until they meet at the top of the circle, where they become the same thing.

Far left ideology and far right ideology end with the same result for the people – oppression.

Whether it was Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, or any number of the extreme right or left wing governments the world has seen come and go, the end result is always the same. The far right and left have wildly different ideologies but when they are implemented they produce similar outcomes. Nationalism, media control, and the role of the police state are all hallmarks of both.

But this is America, land of the free, none of that could happen here.

If we stay vigilant, well informed, and look out for one another than no, authoritarian oppression is highly doubtful.

But the infrastructure is in place. Lets take the first commonality, nationalism. Trump had a nationalist message. He created the idea that America had lost its grandiosity, mostly at the hands of foreign nations and immigrants, and that we have to take our country back and make it great again.

The increasing polarization of the media is another piece of that infrastructure. I ask many of my peers where they get their news. Depending on their political views I usually get Fox, MSNBC, or some other variation of either right or left wing news outlets.

At face value there is nothing wrong with either one of those news outlets. I watch both. The problem arises when that becomes the only source that people get their news from. Once again, depending on ideology people tend to exclusively watch one or the other. They tend to only listen to ideas that reinforce their own ideas, because at the end of the day we all want to be right.

As a result, many people live in an echo chamber, rarely hearing differing opinions or points of view from their own.

The most alarming commonality to me is the militarization of the police force. After the two wars fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, we had a huge military surplus. Countless humvees, armored vehicles, body armor, and military weapons were bought and paid for, sitting in warehouses.

What became of that military surplus? Cue your local police department.

In the post 9/11 America most towns, big or small have a SWAT team. Every police force is armed to the teeth with military style weapons that until recently were exclusively reserved for the battlefield.

I remember watching the Ferguson riots as they happened. The police response was more than just officers in riot equipment. Police were marching down the street in military formations behind the cover of armored vehicles. Images I was used to seeing in war footage from Iraq. The same is occurring right now at the Standing Rock demonstrations in North Dakota

If you were to take pictures and footage from these two events and remove the police logos from the uniforms it would be easy to confuse them with an occupying military force. To me there is no difference in the military wearing green uniforms overseas, or blacks uniforms that say police here at home.

The insidious underlying thread that makes us lose all perspective and allow incremental extremism to protrude into our daily lives is fear. Take the most recent example of the proposed registry for Muslims. The fear that we do not know who is coming into our country, and that we are not safe allows us to lose logic and reason. Once policies like this are enacted, where do we draw the line? Is a gay registry next on the list, or a Jewish registry?

The logical answer is that anyone who comes to America, including refugees already are vetted. They don’t just show up here out of thin air.

The biggest lie of all is that the registry, militarization of police, and fear mongering is for our own safety. It’s not about safety and never was. It is and always has been about power and control.

As Americans we possess the inherit values of perseverance, healthy skepticism, and goodwill towards one another. Values we must keep in the forefront of our mind in these times of fear and division.