The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘Facebook’

WHO YA GONNA CALL?

It was the last post that Anahlia Cowherd posted on Facebook – a plea for help – help for deliverance from a predator who lived in her house – her grandfather.  Apparently, the sexual abuse she had received from her 79 year old relative, Honorario Yango came to her mother’s attention who then confronted her father with the allegations.  He in turn killed her, his granddaughter and attempted to kill his 10 year old grandson who thankfully escaped.  Yango then turned the gun on himself, saving the taxpayers from another costly trial – and the prison system from having to make space for yet another depraved pervert.  That last sentence might sound cold – because it is.  After reading story after story about the kooks who dominate the news with their predation either on relatives or strangers, it’s getting harder to maintain a rosy outlook on humanity.

Those stories sometimes revolve around sexual abuse but others are more generic, exhibiting sheer animal gratification and the thrill of killing.  Stories such as those regarding ISIS and the events last week in Canada, New York, earlier this week in Sacramento and the innocent woman in Moore, OK who was beheaded by a former co-worker in her office fit that second category.  There are far, far more of these stories than should be appearing in any civilized society.  If I were a betting person, and I am, I suspect that the curtain is far from falling on reports of this kind.

In my years as a self-employed business person I realized that I had certain skills on which I could dependably rely and that there were some areas of running the business in which others had more ability than I did.  Rather than spend my time performing duties in which I only had average ability, I chose another route to make sure that those aspects of the business were handled in the most professional manner.  That answer was to hire someone with the expertise to manage those activities.  Whether it’s a private business or the business of government that same principle applies.

Fortunately for the business person, their enterprise is fairly simple.  It is either to manufacture a product or offer a service and do that while earning a profit so that they can continue either to manufacture a product or offer a service.  The Founding Fathers had a similarly simplistic view of the function of the Federal government granting it very few responsibilities.  But one of those was to protect the country from intruders and to keep the country’s borders secure.  That wisdom seems to have been lost on those in Washington who have taken a path where they want to control everything – resulting in their not controlling much of anything very effectively.

Recently I came across a website which I spent some time exploring.  It is a website devoted to the topic of how to stop bullying.  Without regard to partisanship, I hope that we all might agree that the actions which caused Anahlia Cowherd’s death at her grandfather’s hand is bullying carried to an extreme.  It is a problem that affects people tragically, but fortunately that number is fairly small.  And if your view is like mine, the person who engages in bullying activities has mental problems which would best be treated medically rather than governmentally.  The rather well done website, by the way can be found at the following link:  www.stopbullying.gov.  Yes, that’s right, our Federal government used some of our tax dollars to create and maintain this site.  The fact that it is easy to navigate suggests that they did not use the same contractors who were hired to put up the Obamacare website.

I would be exceptionally happy if all bullying suddenly ceased – as a result of this website or otherwise.  But we all know that is not going to happen because that same activity has been around for my lifetime and I suspect was around for centuries before I arrived on planet Earth.  So while this website leaves us with an impression that our Federal government cares about the issue, it really does nothing to fix the problem – most likely because realistically, no fix is possible.

Meanwhile, in California, there are two law enforcement officers who are dead at the hands of one man, Luis Monroy-Bracamontes a Mexican national who has been deported four times, rejected twice at the border before he entered the country and two more times after he made it into the U.S and on his second “visit” remained here for five years.  This is the practical result of the Federal government’s failure to address one of its few Constitutional responsibilities – securing the country from intruders.  What is disheartening is that the present administration actively chooses to worry about issues like bullying and passively chooses to ignore the question of securing our borders and making the country a safer place for all our citizens.

It would be foolish to suggest that all those who are in the country illegally have either criminal inclinations or intent.  But the fact that we obviously don’t enforce our laws certainly would be an inducement to those who do have criminal inclination and intent to come here, knowing that we do not give their presence or activities a very high priority.  If we suddenly stopped prosecuting people who committed bank robbery, it should surprise no one if there were a spike in the number of bank robberies that were committed.

One of the premier planks in the liberal agenda is restricting access to firearms of people who are either mentally unstable or who have criminal backgrounds, all this as a stopgap provision until they can try to figure a way to sell the idea of banning all individual ownership of munitions for any reason or purpose.  I don’t know whether Anahlia’s grandfather had a weapon which was purchased legally and registered.  I do doubt that Luis Monroy-Bracamontes’ weapon was owned licitly.  And despite the fact that the two law enforcement officers were armed, he was able to ambush and kill them.

With the Federal government’s inability or inadequacy to prioritize the safety of American citizens, we are currently dealing only with isolated incidences of violence.  What if, and hopefully this doesn’t occur, the worldwide jihadist terror movement decided to launch widespread attacks throughout the country – or attack vulnerable infrastructure such as the electric grid.  Based on the responses from the Obama administration to date, is there a rational person among us who feels confident that any Federal response to such an incident would either be effective or timely?  And having developed a sufficient permanent underclass in all of our major cities, who does not believe that members of that group would take full advantage of this situation as an opportunity to loot stores and abscond with private property?

Perhaps the greatest lobbyist for American’s right to bear arms and for the NRA is the administration and its supporters themselves.  Should such an event occur, notifying your friends on Facebook or even dialing 911 may well prove either impossible or fruitless.  And it is for that reason, so many Americans feel that if they place a call to anyone to protect them in that emergency, that call will be to Smith and Wesson.

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THE BULLY

Bullies have always existed and probably always will.  For whatever reason there are some who are so insecure that they must find someone whom they believe to be weaker than they to push around so that the bully can feel an importance that is born in cruelty rather than in conscience.

I knew a few bullies as a child and several more as an adult.  The pattern for the children was always the same – find a victim who was weaker or who was different from most – and launch attacks, physical or verbal – with the hope that their prey would cry or run away in fear.

The adults who were probably bullies as a child have changed their pattern of behavior – but only slightly.  They exhibit less physicality but more verbal abuse – particularly if their target was a different color or of a different ethnicity or different in any other way.

In order for the bully to take full pleasure in his torture it is important that he or she have an audience to appreciate him.  This gives him validation.  And usually those who gravitate in his circle are even weaker than he, gaining their own self-esteem by being in the presence of such a mighty person.

We are reading and hearing more about bullies – from how they harassed a young girl so badly that she took her own life – to a professional football player who left the Miami Dolphins because of his teammates’ incessant jeers and taunts.  So naturally, being the caring people whom we are, we will pass laws and stiffen penalties for those who engage in this blood sport.  And we will walk away from our legislative chambers with a smug sense that we have done our duty.

It does not surprise me that there seems to be more of this going around today than when I was a kid.  If there is one fundamental thing that ran through the bullies I knew as a child it was this – not one of them was ever courteous or thoughtful of others.  On the other hand their most noticeable characteristic was rude and loud behavior – as though to shout out to the world, “Hey, look at me.  I’m important.”

Perhaps they had to shout that loudly to quash the thoughts that ran through their self-absorbed minds that they were anything but important.  These were lonely, arrogant children who almost certainly grew into adults with the same deficiencies and longings to be needed.

It’s interesting that the two bullies who come to mind from my childhood were both from wealthy families, still they were latchkey kids – if you can call a very expensive co-operative apartment with twenty-four hour doormen on Park Avenue a ramshackle shack.  But their parents were both too involved in their own lives to pay much attention to their offspring.  They had nannies and cooks and servants, but they lacked the most essential elements that can turn a malleable child into a bully.  They lacked the love and attention and direction of their parents.

If bullying is on the rise it should surprise none of us.  What is left of the family unit is so distracted that it seems that staying together is more a matter of indifference than desire.  Obviously, there are many exceptions to that statement – but they are the exceptions rather than  the rule.

Passing a law to punish the effects of bullying is about as useful as trying to put a poached egg back into its broken shell.  Laws are punitive in nature rather than pro-active, and if we are to address the question of bullying effectively, we need to look at the cause rather than punish the result.

If a person has a good sense of his own self-worth, he or she is far less likely to become the subject of a bully’s malevolence.  The bully is essentially a coward and must find someone whom he believes is even weaker than he in order to achieve his goal of torment.  I know that in my case I was able to develop a reasonable sense of self-worth through the efforts and love of my parents and teachers.

I remember one particular incident when a kid who was three grades ahead of me began picking on one of my classmates – someone whom I really liked.  It was, of course, before Facebook.  Back in those days, the bully needed more guts than today and had to confront his victim face to face.

It began with little things like jostling my friend in the hallway.  And then there was tampering with his locker.  Nothing that you could really point your finger to as being threatening, but a pattern began to emerge and these little incidents became more frequent.  It began to wear on my friend and to have an effect on his performance in school.

I think that everyone in our class was aware of what was happening.  And we all were silent.  And it is in the silence of those who standby from which the bully gains strength.  But I’m sure my thoughts were much the same as my other classmates’.  “Better him than me.”  That is the statement of the ultimate coward.

Well, one day the bully got over exuberant and body checked my friend into a hallway.  Enough was enough.  I knew what he was doing was wrong.  And, more importantly, I knew that what I was doing – saying nothing – was just as wrong.  So I finally spoke out – in a loud voice and with a great deal of fear in my heart, “Hey, cut that out.”  My body was shaking as I expected to be the next one tossed against the wall.

What happened next surprised me.  This kid who was four years older than I looked stunned that anyone had stood up to him.  The best he could come back with was, “Yeah, you gonna make me?”

I don’t know where I came up with this but I said, “Maybe I’m not as big as you but with Timmy and me and our gang we can take you.  Now get out of here and leave us alone.”  And he left – and that was the end of Timmy’s being bullied by him.  I was never so scared in my life as when I uttered those words.  Neither Timmy nor I were fighters – and we didn’t have a gang.

As I thought about the recent episodes of bullying which made the news, I reflected back on a person who was the subject of a lot of sniggering when she tried to make a name for herself in the world of entertainment.  She wasn’t what most people would describe as attractive.  Sadly, most people make their judgments based on looks and if they don’t like what they see there, they never allow themselves the time to understand a person’s substance.

This Scottish lady’s name is Susan Boyle, and the video is a recording of her first performance on “Britain’s Got Talent.”  Fortunately, despite the audience’s and the judges’ initial reaction, Susan had the internal fortitude to stand in front of an audience and sing her song – fortunate both for her and for the world.

And that’s a lesson from which both bullies and their would be victims can learn.

ARE YOU NUTS? OR IS IT ME?

As I look back over my life I realize that I have had to make many decisions –choosing between two or even more alternative plans of action.  Some of those decisions worked out well – others, not so much.  I have always replayed the thinking that went into those poor decisions to see where I went wrong – not for the purpose of beating myself up in a frenzy of self-flagellation but to avoid repeating the mistake in the future.  But even after deciding on a path that didn’t work out well, I’ve never questioned the state of my mental health.  Until now.

As we have embarked on peeling back the onion which was the life of the mentally disturbed Navy Yard shooter, Aaron Alexis, as I suggested in an earlier post, more information would be uncovered and dissected by the media.  After all, they have space to fill.

One of the assertions that was made truly stunned me.  That was that, besides the obvious, Alexis’ several detentions for shooting a firearm in his apartment and shooting out someone’s tire; informing the police in Rhode Island that he had to move to three different motel rooms in one night because “the voices” were pursuing him, a message they apparently ignored; we should have seen his potential for being a violent person for one obvious reason, that being that he was a loner and didn’t have a Facebook account!

Perhaps not being a Facebook subscriber is an indication of mental illness.  I have read countless studies that suggest a majority of the homeless who live on the street have mental problems.  Obviously, when you’re living in a cardboard box you aren’t likely to have Wi-Fi up and running to allow you access to the internet on your laptop.  And while you might consider connecting at your local Starbucks, I wonder if you would be any more welcome there than those carrying weapons – or whether you could afford any of their beverages.

There are a number of people whom I know who feel that Facebook provides them with a valuable way to communicate with their families in an efficient manner.  That makes sense to me.  But I wonder how many of the subscribers utilize the platform in that manner.

My sense of the “social media,” mainly derived from anecdotal evidence and from the statements of those who are avid users, is that it they are a crutch which people who have difficulty communicating or relating to other people on a direct, interpersonal basis prefer to use to express themselves.  One of my acquaintances who is an active Facebook user, recently broke up with his girl friend by sending her a text message, announcing the end of their relationship.  Such is our modern, technological world.

It is always dangerous and probably inaccurate to make sweeping statements about any group of people, particularly when they number in the millions, and expect that we are categorizing them in an accurate manner.  Having made that disclaimer, I look at the social media with a certain amount of distrust – if only because they themselves admit that at least twenty percent of the profiles which are listed are either misleading or outright false.

As a child I was extremely shy – overly so.  I do not know if that was a result of a poor self-image or what other reason there might have been that caused me to be that way.  It was not because I was ugly and the kids made fun of me – I wasn’t.  It was not because I struggled in school – I excelled there.  It was not because I had no talents – I was musically gifted.  It was not because I was unpopular – my classmates generally liked me and sought me out as a friend.  Nevertheless, I was extremely reserved, introverted and uncomfortable when I met new people.

Fortunately, I overcame that.  But the way that I overcame that was that I had to overcome that to survive.  There was no anonymous platform called Facebook behind which I could hide.  My experiences and those of my contemporaries naturally forced me into associations with others on a direct, person to person basis.  That was the only basis that existed and I am grateful for that.  But I wonder if I had grown up today with the anonymity of the internet, whether I would ever have had to face dealing with people on a one on one basis and might still be that shy, introverted child.

If you were to take a poll of everyone with whom I have dealt during my life, I suspect there are a few of those who would check off the box marked “Dislike.”  But those would be very few in number.  (There’s no pleasing some people).  But I am confident that an overwhelming majority of the people who know me would be pleased at our association.  But the kind words or accolades of others doesn’t validate a person’s behavior.  That has to come from within the individual.

If I were to do something wildly outrageous, I suspect there are a sufficient number of moral heathens in our global society who would enjoy my performance and actively share that with others of their fellow degenerates.  My Facebook “Like” button might well get near being worn out.  So does that constitute an endorsement for my behavior?  I guess if you look at the raw numbers you might say that it would.  But if you consider the character of those who are the plebiscite, you might draw a different conclusion.  We all know that bad news sells.  So does bad behavior.

Several years ago I was playing poker and seated across from me was a fellow who claimed to be one of the people involved in the “Girls Gone Wild” tapes that were being sold on television.  He went on for some time about how much money he and his partners had made with this venture.  I believe that he was probably telling the truth.  Other than the ads, I never viewed the tapes, and based on what was presented in the ads would certainly not purchase an hour and a half’s worth of watching young women getting drunk and allowing their libidos to take over their actions.  But there are people who have different tastes and who found these tapes entertaining and titillating.  Would I feel proud if a large number of these went to my Facebook page and clicked the “Like” button?  I don’t think so.

If I saw a value in the social media I would have a presence there.  But I don’t.  I would rather have a sage person offer me good constructive criticism than a group of self-absorbed, self-adulating people tell me how wonderful I am and want to be my “friend”.  But that’s me.  I guess that makes me suspect in the minds of the madding crowd.  And that’s okay.

Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  What’s yours?

SOCIAL MEDIA AND SOCIAL INJUSTICE

There is no question that the social media have become an influential means of communicating.  I have a Facebook account – at least I’m pretty sure that I do – because I keep getting emails on a daily basis telling me that I have one message.  Now if I could only remember the password I used to set it up, I might just check in to see who’s trying to reach me.  But that seems like more work than its worth.

While my attitude might be an anomaly in this day and age, I realize that there are others (a great number of others), who feel as dependent on their Facebook accounts as a drug addict does on his next fix.  They are probably a lot more savvy than I – and are certainly a lot younger.

Now if you Facebook or tweet, you should understand that people are going to see what you post.  After all, isn’t that the reason for being on those sites in the first place?  So it should have come as no surprise when a few days ago a teenager in the far north Chicago suburb of Zion was apprehended after he tweeted the following:

“If Zimmerman leaves free Imma shoot everybody in Zion causing a mass homicide, an I’ll git away wit it just like Zimmerman.”

Currently charged with a felony for this bit of communication, I suspect that if you polled everyone in the country, at least 20% of us would agree that his apprehension by law enforcement was the appropriate response.

But I would like to bring to your attention another bit of communication which got someone in trouble.  This time it was Facebook which was the platform of choice.  Perhaps you are familiar with the story of the young, former Marine who got in a whole mess of trouble because he expressed his views on how the government of the United States was being run and suggested that some of Washington’s finest “should be arrested.”  His name is Brandon Raub and the story goes back to August of last year.

Mr. Raub suggested that the government was lying about the events of 9/11 (the first one).  He was also critical of the government’s increasingly obvious circumvention of the Constitution.

Mr. Raub served honorably two tours of duty with the Marine Corps – one in Afghanistan and one in Iraq and was honorably discharged from the Corps.  He is thought of as a good citizen in his Virginia community and owns and operates a small business there.

On the morning of August 16, 2012, some FBI agents came to his door.  They wanted to speak with him and they did converse with him through the screen door.  Mr. Raub, wearing only some short pants, was persuaded to come outside and was almost immediately handcuffed.  The agents refused to allow him to put on any additional clothing.  He was taken to a hospital for “psychiatric evaluation” and was ordered by a judge to remain there for a 30 day observation period.

What follows is a telephone conversation with a local radio host and Brandon Raub while he was still being “observed” in the hospital.  You be the judge of how sane or insane he sounds:

Mr. Raub was released from the hospital where he was held against his will beofre the full 30 day evaluation period, thanks to the efforts of his attorney.  But under Virginia law, the provisions for having someone committed for “mental observation” are loose enough that about 20,000 people in the state have that happen to them each year.

I suspect that most of these detentions occur because relatives, friends or neighbors see some erratic behavior and are concerned both for the individual as well as for those with whom he or she might come in contact.  But that was not the situation in Mr. Raub’s case.

His neighbors consider him a good neighbor, always willing to help out and he is thought of as an asset to the community.  So who “turned him in?”

My guess, and it is only a guess, is that with the now-admitted spying on U. S. citizens and others in this country by the NSA, it might well be that Mr. Raub’s comments were picked up by that agency and they initiated his arrest.  That is also what Mr. Raub thinks.  And subsequent to this event, we do know that the IRS profiled and held up the exemption applications of hundreds of Tea Party organizations.

It should be clear, though disturbing to anyone who wants to think about it logically, that this administration sees pursuing the government’s agenda supercedes the rights of the individual.

It does give one pause and make one wonder if anyone in the administration has read the First Amendment to the Constitution – or can comprehend it – or most importantly, is willing to uphold it as they swore to do.

As I reflect on all of this, I think I better try to recover my Facebook password and check out that lone message which was left for me.  It might just be the government letting me know that, “they’re here to help me.”

If this doesn’t disturb you, you need to catch the next shuttle to your starship.

I HAVE AN IDEA

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”  – Eleanor Roosevelt

There is no question that at different points of our lives and even at different times of the day we allow our minds to operate on settings of either “small” or “average”.  We spend a fair amount of time there.

“Good morning, Mrs. Smith,” we say to our neighbor.  “How are you doing after your surgical procedure?”  Here’s an example of our discussing both a person and an event.  It’s a normal part of our conversation with our friends and acquaintances.  But we could elevate this to that third level by saying, “I am going grocery shopping this afternoon.  Would you like to go with me – or is there anything I can get for you so you don’t have to exert yourself and can rest up?”

Now I will admit that extending an offer of courtesy to an ailing neighbor is not an earth shattering “idea”.  It will not change the course of human civilization or speed us towards a better world – other than for the person whom we are trying to assist.  But as unimportant a thought as offering to get a neighbor’s groceries might be in the scheme of world events – why is that so many of us never think to make the gesture?

I believe there is a simple explanation for why we allow our minds to operate at each level – and I would like to attempt to describe that in reverse order.

THE SMALL MIND

When I think of peoples’ conversation as it concerns other people – most of it can be described as gossip and character assassination.  Who enjoys this sort of conversation?  Generally I have found that people who are insecure in their own self-worth spend most of their time engaged in discussing other people.  Somehow they believe that by discrediting and demeaning others they elevate their own stature.  Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth.

Even as a child I realized that most of us unfortunately gravitate to this low level state of mind from time to time.  Today we have the internet to titillate us over the latest celebrity indiscretion – but back then we had Hollywood gossip columnists and magazines devoted to the subject.  There is a baser part of each of us that seems content to delve into this low level of mental operation – at least from time to time.  The trick is to pull ourselves out of the mire and move upward.

If I were to describe this state of mind in today’s terms I guess I would call it the “Social Media Syndrome.”

THE AVERAGE MIND

Thank goodness for sports, tsunamis, other forms of natural disasters and homicides.  Where would our friends with “average minds” turn for topics of discussion without them?  And the fact that we now have virtually instantaneous knowledge of these events provides them with an unlimited source of conversational material.

The other day I was at the dog park.  I went over to say hello to several of the regulars and heard two of the men having a conversation about a baseball game they had seen the day before.  The conversation rapidly turned from a discussion of specific spectacular plays that occurred during the game to one where they went back in time to talk about similar plays which had been made in games ten, twenty and more years ago.  I was astounded they could actually remember those events.  More to the point, I wondered how and why did they remember them?

As I was in a whimsical mood I decided to have a little fun with these two fellows.  So I said, “You guys have such an extensive knowledge of sports and history.  I can’t tell you how impressed I am with that.  Now I’m working on a paper about Italy in the 15th century.  The day that Columbus first landed in the New World happened to be the day of the finals in the all-Italy bocce ball tournament pitting Florence against Venice.  Does either of you remember the final score?”

Apparently bocce ball wasn’t within their area of expertise and after a few seconds of mumbling they resumed their baseball conversation.  I’m sure that my point was lost on them.  But I had a little fun with it anyway.  Every so often I allow my impish side to exert itself and take control of my mouth.

If I were to describe this state of mind I would call it “The Living Vicariously Through Others Syndrome.”

THE GREAT MIND

Seldom does humanity produce someone with the abilities of a Leonardo da Vinci or an Isaac Newton.  We call these people geniuses.  But the truth is that even they used just a very small portion of their brains.  Perhaps what differentiates them from the rest of us is that most of us use even less – and they must have exerted some serious effort to utilize as much as they did.  In other words, they tried to improve themselves.

That should give all of us some reason for hope.  While most of us will never operate at their level of brilliance, we can be more “thoughtful” people tomorrow than we are today.  We can aspire to do things that we never imagined yesterday if we only make the effort.

Although the brain is an organ, not a muscle, I am convinced that if it goes unused and unchallenged, just like our biceps it is doomed to languish and atrophy.  If we content ourselves with allowing it to operate in either first or second gear it is bound to do just that.

Why are so many of us afraid to dream dreams and think thoughts that might not only positively improve our own lives but which might change the world?  The only answer is fear – fear of the criticism which might come from those with small and average minds.  Fear of humiliation and ridicule by those whose tools in trade are limited to those instruments of destruction.

I remember a piece of wisdom that my father imparted to me as a child.  I had come home from school the first day I wore glasses.  Several of the kids called me “Four eyes.”  The children making the statement were only acquaintances, but I felt the wound left by their remark.  None of my friends made any comment other than one who said, “Those look good on you.”  When I explained what happened dad said, “Consider the source.”

If I were to describe this state of mind I guess I would call it “The Daring To Be Better Syndrome.”

Each of us has control of how we think and how we live.  If you’ve read this far you have enough curiosity and hopefully sufficient courage to work toward a higher level of thought.  For me that is a personal goal on which I work daily.

It will be a good day indeed when each of us utters the most powerful sentence in the language –  the four words, “I have an idea.”

ON FACEBOOK AND MARKETING

If you have read anything about how to market goods or services in today’s cyber world, you are bound to find the following statement:  “You need to be on the social networks.”

Well, before delving into what all of that means let’s take a step back in time and see how things were done before we were all internet connected.  (This was at a time when snail mail was the only mail).

I remember picking up the current copy of “Galaxy Science Fiction Magazine” and quickly reading all the stories.  I was fourteen at the time.  At the back of the issue were some advertisements – one of which promised that if I only sent them $2.95 they would turn me into the most successful mail order marketer that either the Milky Way or Andromeda Galaxy had ever seen.  So, of course, I sent off for this information.

Well, about two weeks later I received a packet of material which was poorly printed and talked in vague generalities about finding a product which appealed to a large group of people, stocking an inventory and, of course purchasing a mailing list from their company.  The information was general in nature and essentially useless.  I learned a lesson.

I learned another lesson shortly afterward.  Most of the money that was made in mail order was made by people selling other people information on how to be successful in mail order.

Years later, one of the applicants of my executive search business who had met with me and given me her resume was involved with a company which sold its products, water filters, through a system known as Multi-Level Marketing.  The concept was a simple one and had, in my mind, a great deal of validity.

As this lady, Janet pointed out, a company could distribute its products via two means.  One was by paying to advertise those products in magazines, radio and television.  Or they could use “word of mouth” advertising which is where MLM came into the picture.

Janet went on to cite a number of successful companies which had grown to their present size by using the MLM model.  Among these were Amway, Avon Products and Nu Skin.

Instead of spending money advertising their product, her company took the money it saved and paid it to its distributors.  But the real benefit and potential for those distributors came not only from the profit on their personal sales of water filters, but that they would earn an override on people they brought into the company as distributors and on people that those distributors brought into the company.  I believe this went on for five generations of distributors – but the details really don’t matter – all MLM companies have similar sorts of compensation plans.  It’s the principle of how they operate that I am trying to communicate to you.

I saw nothing wrong with that logic and I was particularly impressed with Janet’s statement (which I did check out) that the MLM industry had created more millionaires than any other in the history of mankind.  That was a very powerful argument for why I should want to get involved.  Incidentally, that data was courtesy of the Direct Selling Association – the trade group to which MLM companies belong.

So Janet invited me to an “opportunity meeting” and I attended and became a water filter distributor.  I purchased the requisite number of filters to get started and I became part of her “down line”.  Over a period of months I sold those filters and recruited people who became part of my down line and on whom I earned a small commission.  I made my money back and then some, but I am not sure if the time that I invested would have come out to the minimum wage at the time.

I learned two lessons from this experience.

First, if you were going to make money in MLM you needed to have a product which was consumable and for which there would be regular repeat business.  That is why so many companies in the industry sell vitamins or detergents or beauty care products.

Second, the people who had become millionaires because of MLM were people who had probably started in another MLM company or perhaps several, had built a large down line with those companies – sometimes numbering twenty or thirty thousand – and then when a new MLM company came along with a new product would jump to that company, bringing their down line with them and making a huge profit from that single transaction and the sales which ensued the first few months after the new product began being marketed.

A third lesson, but one which I already knew was that we all say that we want to be successful – but few of us are willing to put forth the effort necessary to accomplish that.  I figured that if I recruited five distributors to help build our business, only one would have the gumption to stick with it.  I was wrong.  It was more like one out of ten.  We all know the old saw, “A chain is only as good as its weakest link”.  It is very true and it applies directly to MLM companies and the people who join up.

Early this week after last Friday’s Facebook IPO, some negative news has been circulating about whether the company really has the potential to be the profit maker it has been touted to be.  The reason I bring this into this post is because I see a tremendous similarity between the social network companies and MLM companies.  Remember today’s current advice on internet marketing – you have to be on the social networks in order to succeed.  Facebook now has 900 Million active users – but that still represents less than 15% of the people on earth – so they obviously have room to grow.

Because of the similarity in marketing strategies between the social networks and MLM, I tried to give you some background on the latter.  Odds are that you already know about the former.  And having prepared you in that way would like to present the ultimate MLM company and show you how the results are destined to turn out.

If you don’t believe that we have an obsession with youth and beauty, you have only to turn on your television after regular programming is done for the day.  You are most likely to encounter at least one infomercial for some beauty cream product, some dietary supplement to help you lose weight or a program of aerobic instruction which will help you tone and firm.  We have been concerned about looking good and feeling good and living longer at least since Ponce de Leon began his quest for the Fountain of Youth.

So I present “Eternal Life” – the latest release in MLM companies.  Here’s the product and the marketing plan.

Eternal Life has developed an amazing pill.  The day you take your first dose any and all ailments which you have acquired will be cured.  If you have missing teeth, they will be replaced with healthy new ones.  If you have failing kidneys, they will be repaired.  If you have cancer it will cease to be.  No matter what ailment you have it will be gone.  (Do you think there would be a large market for this product?  But,  as they say on the infomercials, “Wait.  There’s more – much, much more).

In addition to eradicating all your infirmities, each day you take the pill, a year of aging will disappear from your appearance – until you look as you did when you were twenty-five and you will continue to look that age as long as you take your daily pill and meet the other two requirements for being a distributor.

First, you must pay one dollar a month for the Eternal Life supplement.

Second, you must recruit one (but only one) new distributor per month.

The downside to this relationship is that if you fail to meet both these obligations, you will again begin to age but at a rate of five years per day and the ultimate consequence, of course, will be death.

Of course, you as the first distributor eagerly sign up for this program.  Your lumbago and rheumatoid arthritis have been bothering you no end – and you once again look forward to being able to eat corn on the cob without everything slipping under your dentures.  You are 85 years old.

So you take your first pill and, just as advertised, no more pain and your original teeth are in place.  As you continue to take your daily dose of Eternal Life the changes to your appearance start to manifest themselves to everyone at the retirement community where you and Zelda have moved.  Mrs. Warchinsky keeps complimenting you on how good you’re looking – “What are you doing to yourself?  You look like a 60 year old.”

At the end of the month, naturally your recruit your wife Zelda into the program and each of you pay your dollar for the month’s dosage.  Of course, Zelda experiences the exact same results you did.  (The people in the retirement community can talk about nothing other than your transformation).  They all want to know what’s going on.  But you keep silent so that you are not overrun by a horde of people in wheel chairs each wanting to sign up.

At the end of one year, you’ve ushered in to the program your dearest relatives and closest friends – as have those you recruited.  There are now, out of earth’s teeming seven billion population, a mere 2,048 people who have benefited from Eternal Life’s product.

You obviously want to continue your relationship with this miracle product – as do all the people you and they have signed up – and at the end of year two, you are surprised that the number of Eternal Life consumers has grown to a substantial 8,050,688.  That is the power of monthly doubling.  But, not to worry, you’re less than ten percent the size of Facebook.

And then comes year three.  Things move along smoothly until month eight.  In order for everyone to meet their obligation they would need to recruit 2.2 billion people, making a total group of over 4.4 billion.  The only problem is that more than half the world’s  population is under the age of 25.  So many of the participants fail in their contractual obligation and begin to see the entire process reverse.  The next month, there is no one on earth left to recruit.  In a month, half of us are dead of old age.

In some parts of town this marketing strategy is known as a Ponzi scheme.  On Wall Street, the polite – but no less damning phrase – refers to this as “The Greater Fool Theory”.

Will Facebook be able to continue its growth infinitely.  The answer, of course, is no.  It can’t do that because there is not an infinite supply of new subscribers.  So the question is can it find new revenue sources for which its users are willing to pay?  For example, what about a modest “user” fee to maintain an account – say five dollars per month.  Even if it lost half its users, that would still result in an annual revenue stream of $25 Billion.

Will Facebook adopt that strategy?  Well, nobody yet knows.  But it is clear that now that it is a publically traded company it is going to have to adapt from its original model.  We’ll see how they do that.

Meanwhile, it’s time for me to take my magic pill.

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