Thursday, October 07, 2010

The Business of Anxiety

Have you ever used someone's fears to sell something? Have you ever bought something because someone emphasized the safety a product or service provided? I may be overreacting to this to some degree but I have noticed more advertisement and fear mongering from a variety of different influences in the past year. I would like to say that this is because it is occurring more frequently but my best attempts at recollection tell me that this has been going on for quite a while and I am merely beginning to notice it more and more. It appears to me that over an extended period of time business has begun to discover that they can drasticly improve the performance of their markets by promoting and inducing increased anxiety in their current and potential customers. It also appears to me that political performance has become so successful at inducing and selling anxiety that it is the primary reason that people today even notice politics. I've got this theory that perhaps we are becoming a society addicted to anxiety. If not addicted to anxiety itself perhaps so ingrained with fear that we accept almost any solution to decrease our fear. I know this is not an original thought as I have heard it fro multiple friends and family members who I greatly respect. I believe we understand what is going on and to some degree how it is occurring. Since this is the case I think we have enough information to begin working on some solution oriented thinking.

Name off the first five things you are afraid of. Just the first things that come to mind. For example:

Dirty Bathrooms

Crazy Drivers

Home Security

Personal Health

Career Progress

These things popped into my mind randomly and I can't help but notice that I have seen advertisements in the past month that questions my preparation or progress in each of the examples I gave. While consciously I am aware that these things really don't merit a lot of my attention they still cause me anxiety sometimes. When I feel this anxiety my first response tends to lean towards what do I need to do to make sure I'm safe. I never even stop to question the very reason I feel the anxiety in the first place. Let's take the first example I gave. Did you know that in some scientific studies they found that computer keyboards have much higher amounts of germs, bacteria, etc than toilet seats? If this is the case why would I have a tendency to care much more about the hair or drop of liquid on the toilet seat over the 5-10 keyboards I work on everyday? The reason is conditioning. Repeated emphasis since I was a baby has induced a natural anxiety response to any foreign matter on toilet seats. This is probably a good thing taken a little too far. Proper sanitation in bathrooms has drastically cut down disease from my incomplete knowledge of the subject. Now if this is the case in a very small example like this how often do I merely accept my anxiety to stimuli rather than questioning its cause and validity? This is the question I want each of you to ask yourselves when you face your anxiety. In fact I think we may even be able to make a process to deal with these situations. Let's try this for starters:

Step 1: I feel anxious about: ?????

Step 2: Is this anxiety important enough to question aka Is is worth thinking about?

Step 2: What evidence or history do I have that justifies or causes this anxiety?

Step 3: Is there any new evidence I should consider that should influence this anxiety?

Step 4: Based on previous and new evidence is it worth changing my response to this anxiety?

Step 5: Decide I will respond to ???? using a plan based on the steps I just took.

Step 6: Begin following plan developed in previous step.

Step 7: Return to previous steps as necessary.

In my experience most people go from Step 1 to Step 6 (sometimes step 5) most of the time because they have found something that keeps their anxiety at a level that they are comfortable with. If we skip the steps in between we are accepting that we are not learning anything from new information or previous history. Why would someone want to continually have the same response to the same stimuli without ever changing? Addiction, Complacency, Ignorance, Contentment?

My appeal to you is to start using a thinking process during your daily routine. Just try it for a few days. Ask yourself: Why am I taking this shower, brushing my teeth, driving this car to work, cleaning this toilet seat, etc... You will probably find that you have very good reasons for many of the things that you do. I have found that I am more secure because I do know the reasons for what I do. I also found that I had a tendency to do and feel a lot of things based primarily on what other people have said. When I begin to look for things like scientific studies or start testing my anxieties myself I find that I tend to be what my society tells me more easily than what I genuinely think based on real evidence I can reference.

A few examples of anxiety that family members have a tendency to emphasize. Please remember there are exceptions to every situation.

Wash your hands: From everything I've looked at it appears to me that this will probably be done many more times than is necessary by the majority of people I know.

The government sucks: I have heard this from everyone and have also done it myself. Vote, Revolt, Secede, etc... Just do what you think is most fitting based on your step by step assessment. Once you are doing as you have decided anxiety regarding politics should be greatly decreased.

Muslims are taking over: I question this hypothesis because I have yet to see convincing evidence from a source I trust. Much like the previous example, Plan something and do it.

Rapist, Serial Killers, Kidnappers: I actually have looked at some statistical data regarding this. It appears to me that people are waaaay to overcautious in these area's. We are probably safer from these people today than at any time in history IMO. I'm not saying don't be careful, I'm saying be careful and condition yourself to consider statistical data before experiencing anxiety.

The list could go one but the real point about all this is that fear and anxiety often cause us to not pursue activities and goals that may be very rewarding. Please keep this in mind next time you are thinking about spreading your anxieties or fears in your conversation and actions. Encourage people to consider evidence and pursue goals based on it. Question other people when they attempt to spread their anxieties. I sincerely believe this will really help you to feel and live more fully and help others to do the same.

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Sunday, May 02, 2010

New Job

A little informational update for those interested. I've got a new job at a place called Ironfish Technologies. This may be news to some but I've actually been working there for about two months. As you may expect my work involves installing, maintaining, and repairing computers, network systems, servers, etc... So far it's been a good experience. I've been very busy because there's only three of us who actually work on site for clients. So far my boss has been very good about trying to keep me working about 40 hours a week which is a nice change from my last job. I don't like to make snap judgements about a job so I'm not gonna make too many speculations about how things turn out. Anyways I figured everyone would appreciate the update. Hope everyone is doing well.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Here comes the Judge!

I had a recent conversation with my siblings (and step-sibling) about the role of judgment in the life of a Christian. We had a slight disagreement over the appropriateness of judging someones faults in the interest of helping. My sister strCheck Spellingongly repeated the famous "Judge not lest ye be judged." scripture and took the opinion that Christians are not meant to judge. At the time I did not take enough notice of her use of that statement because it heavily effected the rest of our conversation. Her opinion starts with her definition of what judging is. Her definition obviously puts the task of judging strictly into God's hands meaning it is a task that humans are incapable of doing correctly. She also stated that only God knows a persons heart therefore he is the only one who can judge. Again this is a statement that shows that her definition of judging includes the fact that in order to properly judge one must know the heart of that individual. These statements and others caused me to reconsider the definitions of judgement that we used in our conversation. If judgement is exclusive to God because he can see the hearts of people then my guess is that Chrissy defines judging as determining what are right and wrong actions for each man. This is not hypothetical or a guess this is knowing exactly what is right and wrong in every situation and is absolute truth that only God knows. Under this definition I agree that we are not to judge other peoples actions. God is the only one who can say one thing is right and another wrong. Man can only look at what God provides as a guide and through the spirit take an educated guess. I have come to this conclusion because there are many times God has used events and people in ways that I would consider horribly horribly evil and wrong. My understanding of right and wrong obviously has a long way to go to be in line with Gods understanding.

The other side of the argument taken by pretty much everybody else is that it is OK to judge peoples actions as right or wrong and attempt to help them to change those actions. In this argument the definition for right and wrong in judgement is based on the understanding we gain as Christians through reading inspired word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We are not able to tell the absolute truth of other peoples actions because we cannot see their heart and we do not know what right is in every situation. However the argument we are making is that we look at the actions of others based on our limited understanding and make a decision of whether to help a person based on that understanding. While this may lead us to speaking out of turn and leading others down a road that may not be right in God's eyes (a situation we pray the spirit guides us safely through) much of the time it will lead us to helping others become more capable of making decisions closer to God's understanding of right and wrong. This argument relies heavily on faith. Faith that God can and does guide us in the assistance of others. I am a firm believer that if you have time prayers for guidance and submission are an excellent way to prepare once you've decided that you should help someone change their actions. After all it is merely the righteousness God placed in us acting to help others. All actions that do differently come from our own hearts and the influence of evil forces.

After much thought (and still probably not enough) I think that both parties are correct. God is the only one who judge a persons salvation and the right or wrong of the actions they choose. This is evidenced by numerous situations in the Old Testament when God ordered the killing of entire races of people or a more personal example when God instructed Hosea to marry a prostitute. Normally things like that are considered wrong or at least not entirely right. Hosea is a little more ambiguous but I think still holds as Hosea himself would probably never have considered that a right choice without God's guidance. I think the second argument holds because we make decisions to help people with many things that are based on our faith that God has given us something of an understanding of right and wrong. We see someone beating up an innocent person we intervene because that is a strong wrong action in our understanding. We see someone say hateful words to a friend we stick up for them. These are the easy rights and wrongs that we hold strong. There are other situations more difficult to address. A coworker steals a pen from the secretary. While the action may be technically wrong we have no way to know if the secretary hasn't already agreed to lend out pens thus most of us say nothing. Hear a friend say something about how much he hates work and wants to get a new job. Complaining is wrong however if they want a new job perhaps they are trying to find one and merely desire to vent about work in the meantime. They may need someone to listen to their plight and empathize more than someone to tell them they shouldn't complain and give them job hunting tips. The bible is expansive however we have so many situations today that are simply not addressed directly by inspired word. These are the situations we pray for guidance to do what is the absolute best to do in that situation, the submission to God's will to have the desire, the courage to take the action, and the faith to leave it in God's hands when we must.

I don't know if this summary of our conversation is particularly accurate especially since I surmised my definitions and did not ask anybody involved to actually give me their definitions. I hope I captured the heart of the disagreement and that God uses this post to enlighten someone in some way. I know that it was helpful to me. Chrissy, Matt, Stephen, Brittany, If I missed something please let me know. If you have any input of any kind please feel free to comment.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Unmeetable Standard of Strict Christianity

I feel guilty a lot. I look at my life and I see some of the mistakes and failures that I choose consciously and subconsciously every day. As I get older and gain more knowledge, and hopefully wisdom, I see more of these errors. The reason I view these actions or inactions as mistakes, failures, etc is due to my moral beliefs based upon the life of Jesus, morals in literature, and my experiences growing up. This has led to a point where I have developed a very strict standard of what is ideal morally. For example it appears to me that if I strive for perfection I should care for the poor. That is a beautiful ideal but what does it mean to commit to caring for the poor as well as I am able? I see myself go out and purchase fast food, expensive snacks at the store, candy, Dr. pepper (of course), etc. These are luxury goods that I do not need. They are wants that I indulge in. If I were properly taking care of the poor wouldn't I instead eat healthy meals that are the least expensive? Wouldn't I take the money I saved from that and use it myself to buy food for the poor or give it to people who do it more efficiently than I can? To take this further I can name at least 15 luxury items in my home off the top of my head that serve as entertainment to myself. Shouldn't I sell those things or give them away? Perhaps even destroy them entirely so they don't consume someone else's time as easily as they have mine. I can apply this to my personal interactions as well. Every time I hear a demeaning joke about someone shouldn't I as a Christian suggest a better alternative or at the least express my disagreement with the action of telling such jokes? When I hear someone speak of an issue that has been bothering them shouldn't I offer some consolation? These are a small sample of the vast amount of situations I have seen, heard, or experienced where I see an ideal response and do not perform it. I do not have difficulty imagining that God will forgive these things because in my own flawed and incomplete love that I have for my family I have no difficulty practicing forgiveness for them (most of the time;) However I look at myself and I have difficulty accepting that I am living even close to what God would have me live. I make the assumption from this that I have insufficient love, faith, courage, whatever, to perform as well as his desires and that though makes me feel guilty. I think my guilt stems from a dissatisfaction with who I am. I feel like I am a leech sucking undeserved grace from the blood of Jesus. The beauty of it is that Jesus always maintained that he welcomes all leeches. If we are willing to latch onto him he is more than willing to imbibe us in all the grace we need and more. Since this is the case I conclude (correct me if you disagree) that I am so dissatisfied with my own level of morality that I find myself disgusting. God has grace enough for all but I do not have grace enough for myself. I am ashamed of myself and the progress I have made through my life. What Jesus has done for me cannot be repayed yet I would expect myself to have enough gratitude to try much harder than I do. I have no answers in this post. I still have not found a way to remedy this guilt. My questions to my reader are these: How do you accept yourself with all of your failings? How do you sleep at night knowing how badly you have failed today?
I understand that most of the people I know do not have as lofty of a moral standard they hold to. Since this is the case I thought I would write out some of the ideals that I would like to live by on a daily basis. These things are specific applications of the "love others more than yourself" ideal that is repeatedly pointed out as the highest moral to live by concerning humans treatment of each other. I use the word need(s) many time in this list. This is a subjective word so in this case you can view needs as physical requirements for survival or living closer to the same moral code that I see as true. While this may sound arrogant it seems logical to me that all Christians that evangelize have this same objective when the argument is broken down. Also the word serve in this list merely means to meet or assist someone in meeting their needs.

1. Eat, dress, and consume as simply as possible and give excess to the needy.
2. Never tell a lie unless it is to benefit someone else's need (a rare, rare, circumstance)
3. In every conversation work towards saying something that will benefit the needs of the other party(s)
4. Consciously attempt to maintain as many relationships as you can to serve the people in those relationships. (This usually requires at least some kind of weekly to monthly communication.)
5. Say nothing if it will not improve a relationship or move someone towards their needs.
6. If a person has free time they should either use it to refresh themselves so they can serve others or actually serve.
7. Verbally compliment any action of service you gain knowledge of.
8. Never boast of your service and always redirect boasts directed at your service to God.
9. When given a gift accept it with grace and thanks so that you may better understand the roles of both gifter and giftee as well as encourage the action of giving.
10. Treat everyone as if they were made in the image of God believing that He can work through you to work through them.

That is a short list of things I see as perfect or close to perfect ideals. I have difficult accepting that I am trying very hard to reach those goals. So I'm left with little improvement and writing about the guilt I am experiencing. I think that is what is called "wallowing in self-pity" a shortcoming on my unwritten list. What do you think I should do?

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Justifying the Rich

I've been considering a question about the lifestyle of Christians in America. In the context of the New Testament I find it's interesting to search for some of the most pertinent examples of Christians in America. I find myself often drawn to Jesus' conversation with a certain wealthy man who asked for moral direction. I'm sure the demographic that reads my blog (my family) knows exactly which example I am speaking about. If your bible references have grown a little shady you can look it up in Mark 10. The rich man asks Jesus for instruction on how to live his life. He believes he is doing well and if we assume that he is honest he sounds like a pretty stand up rich guy. Jesus does not address any specific faults the man might have. Instead he gives him a simple suggestion. Sell your stuff and give it away to those who need it. Of course this simple command leaves the man completely depressed because as we are familiar with it's difficult to let go of the power and freedom that wealth gives you. My question, as you may have already guessed, consists of multiple factors. First, How accurate is the example of the rich man to American Christians in general. The rich man was wealthier than many around him. The wealthy man knew of a population of less wealthy individuals. The man found giving up his wealth very difficult. I think the similarities between his situation and many Americans makes this a valid analogy. Second, Is Jesus' command to the young man also pertinent to Americans Christians today. If we are to assume that Jesus had the rich man's best interests at heart then surely Jesus was attempting to free the young man from his love of wealth in order to allow him to really get to know what it's like to love God and your fellow man first. At the very least we can assume the rich man would be better off if he followed Jesus' command. I find myself considering this and I can't help but wonder what all these Christians are doing living in the top 5-10% of the wealthiest population in the world. At one point I could see how the limitations of travel, information, and cost would give American Christians an excuse to not to notice or heed the less fortunate. In our day and age it is easy to find the poor. It is well within the ability of most American's to sell their possessions and give that wealth to the needy. Looking at the New Testament I do not see many examples of Christians rolling in money. In fact most examples given show early Christians working to get by and serving much of the time. Some churches appeared to share much of their possessions in order to serve more effectively. I understand that there are exceptions to rules like this. We see many examples of God using people and putting them in wealthy situations for his service. I accept that as an important role. In those situations it seems to me that God either made his plan for that person clear beforehand or He would direct them through obvious opportunities into the places he wanted them to be. Basically this leads me to consider if American Christians in general have a valid example of what the love God and love others command means surely they should follow that example and give their wealth away. I hate not having money. I like the eating out, movies, TV, internet, video games, etc. When I think about giving everything I have away I realize how dependent I've become on those things. When I consider my place in society am I the rich man? As always I would love to hear anyone's thoughts on the topic. Enlighten me!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Our Own Complacent Idiocy

Well I believe that I have officially been "told". That analytical Eckstein mind sifted through all the BS and picked out my hypocrisy. You are correct. I am not above the apathy that has engrossed America. There are many times when I could be more informed and/or active in political affairs. In fact perhaps I evidence this trait to a greater degree than many. Many people can claim that they were to busy with kids, work, or bills to go vote. I on the other hand have plenty of time and a lack of good excuses. While I may place a greater importance and interest in our federal government, local issues will likely effect me in more immediate and apparent ways. All this to say kudos cousin. I'm afraid I'll have to find a very convincing reason not to vote next time. After considering the comments of my dear cousin, who inspired this blog, I found myself drawn to the topic further. First let's investigate the value and validity of voting. Let's begin by assuming that your vote does have value and affects the course of political affairs. Validity in this example refers to the question of whether your vote is largely a personal choice or merely following a trend. The reason I ask this question of validity is because the idea behind our government is that the majority of voters will be capable of independent educated thought and the elected candidates will reflect this allowing for a diverse and adaptable body to rule. I acknowledge that this assumption will not be shared by some. If our votes are to be valid we must have the ability to analyze and filter the information we receive. When the majority of the public lacks this ability and will quite easily believe anything that is shown to them on a TV screen the validity of the system is broken. At this point one must make a judgment call. Can most Americans make the distinctions between truth and propaganda? At it's most basic level this question tests the very character of Americans. It is not merely a question of whether my vote is valid. It is a question of whether the majority of voters are valid. If this is not the case the entire system of voting is not valid. Invalidating your individual vote. To boil all this down to it's most simple format. Does the American government still represent Americans? I believe most Americans would respond with a patriotic "Yes!". My issue with this is that I do not believe they have stopped to consider the question. Tell me how one goes about determining the actual representative power of the government? Perhaps I haven't been getting out enough but I do not recall ever hearing about any type of research on this question. It is not discussed in the media. Perhaps in political academia things of this nature are reviewed. All this to say that there are many factors to consider before determining whether your vote on a specific issue for a specific occasion actually matters.
There was a second concept that caught my attention in the latter half of my cousins comment. "making a difference starts at a local level." I loved this statement. Making a difference does start in the lowest level of interactions. Not simply city governments and such but also the discussions and questions we delve into in our social circles. At this very moment by reading my blog (and hopefully contributing afterward) you and I can change our ideas about government, voting, and a many other issues. I hope someday reasonable people will begin talking about these thing more often. That people will begin to change and take an interest in reality outside their own contentment. This is the reality that lead to our independence from Britain and will lead us to independence from our own complacent idiocy. Perhaps the concerned voter of today would better serve by discussing these things with their coworkers and friends.
The reason why I emphasize the importance of social interactions in my previous paragraph is this. Local and state governments are losing power. I state this as a matter of opinion based on a small amount of research and observation. What happens when the federal government begins instituting a health care program, retirement program, gasoline credit program, house credit program, etc...? These policies and procedures are influenced to some degree by our local governments. However with time these programs become almost entirely controlled by federal regulation which our voting power has less effect on. Let's take for example federal income tax. Who get's the largest portion of the taxes on your paycheck? If your answer was the federal government you share the plight of most Americans. Social Security is another example. I pay into a well known mismanaged and unsustainable system that was implemented at the federal level. If this continues how long will city and state governments be necessary beyond acting as enforcers for federal legislation. If this trend continues the concerned population must begin interacting and organizing into a voice that can be heard by federal government in order to effect change. The point I am attempting to make is this. Local politics has it's place and importance based on our support or the lack thereof. If indeed change is a process brought about at a "local level" we must be aware of the changes in the power and scope of our local and federal governments. Thoughts anyone?

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Welcome to Natastica!

Ah welcome friends. It's been awhile since I got into the blogosphere. I'm sure you've all missed me as much as I missed you. Let's start with a little update to wet your whistle. First and foremost; I am well on my way to not being a royal moocher due to my recent change in employment status. After my extended vacation from doing anything I have now returned to the ranks of the eight to fivers. My new workplace at Texas Tech will give me the opportunity to mentor and manage Tech students. While the actual job duties are far less technical than I initially expected I am eager to gain management experience. I will bring a reign of oversight that has not been seen in years. I will fire students at a whim and instill a righteous fear that will inspire my underlings to follow me into the darkest realms of user incompetence and executive entitlement. As far as my personal life goes I am afraid that there is very little to report. My recent acquisition of another year in addition to the 24 I previously owned has weighed me down to a greater degree than I expected. I find myself on the fence of those two backyards known as twenty and thirty. Unfortunately there appears to be some sort of drought as all the grass in these lawns is brown. However I think there may be some rain on the horizon. The latest big news actually includes two other individuals. Ethan, Rob, and I will be moving into a house soon! Soon being the beginning of December and house being my residence for the first 18 year's of my life. Congrats to all involved and wish us luck in attempting to sift through the vast treasure trove of miscellanea (word? yes! the spellchecker corrected my spelling) that is stored there. As we gear up for the upcoming holiday I find myself frequently looking forward to the various family members that will be passing through and/or staying in Lubbock. Not to mention a certain someone we all know gettin himself hitched. So basically we all engorge ourselves over thanksgiving to the point where we deform our wedding outfits in celebration of Dad and Janet's commitment to each other.
At this point I have exhausted my updates section. The good news for you is that I have other thoughts on my mind today. Prepare to be completely and utterly mindnumbed by my paragraph of politically oriented boredom. With the recent election and widespread renewed interest in politics. I found myself likewise swept up in the frenzy of sudden fascination. I have noticed that now that it's popular in the news it appears that the majority of people I know have come to the conclusion that they either A. have the expertise to be a professional political analyst or B. are incapable of understanding what's going on but enjoy regurgitating what they have heard on TV just to be social. I find that it is not particularly difficult to raise a few pointed questions and move people from group A to group B. I have been slightly dismayed but more depressed by the rampant ignorance that appears to motivate the voters of this nation. As I previously indicated a very short interrogation of many people will lead them to saying something similar to "Obama is gonna get me a bigger tax cut" or "NOBama! What kind of American would vote for a Muslim!". Frankly I fear for our nation. There is a very real urge to blame the representatives currently leading our nation for the problems we face. After seeing the rampant chosen ignorance of American voters I must conclude that the real issue is our own complacent idiocy. I ask those who say that our government does not represent our people to reconsider their position. As a majority do we really care that much about who governs us? Honestly I see a hoard of people who simply want their everyday routine to continue. They have little knowledge or concern for the processes that make the life they live possible. They are the sheep in the back of the herd. They see their fellow sheep near them moving and they follow ignorant as to who the shepherd is and what agenda he maintains. Speaking of leaders. We have a new president-elect. I was not surprised or particularly disappointed when Obama was announced the campaign champion. I had no desire to express my support for either candidate therefore I abstained from voting. Surprisingly my vote would have made absolutely no change in the presidential race as Texas was won by McCain by a significant margin. Back to Obama. I disagree with his entire perception of the purpose of government. I heartily rebuke his appeals to creating a fair America that will meet the wants of our ignorant entitlement syndrome. Life is not fair. People who don't have much in life realize this tragic truth and do their best to get by. "But America is the land of the free and here anyone can become anything they want to be, Right?" People say this and what they mean is. "We give money to the poor so they don't have a disadvantage." Sadly government programs do not appear to be giving all these families on welfare a "fair shake". But by all means let's see if Obama can fix it by throwing more money at them. I hope Obama has a more detailed and properly researched plan but I retain a large measure of incredulity. I could expound further but I will restrain myself. While I take the easy road in this matter by ridiculing the issues I must remind myself to practice constructive criticism. We know our current government is filled with inefficiencies and errors. If this is the case we should provide alternative solutions based on our knowledge, experience, or in my case fairly biased and unresearched opinion. To begin the discussion I have several ideas that I believe would be beneficial. Renovate our economic system. Our current system of fiat currency (currency backed by the nation printing it) is largely based on the perception of the stability, power, and production of our nation. This leads to a vicious cycle of inflation during recession and lacks sustainability. Based on my extensive wikiresearch, which makes me an expert, I believe that representative currency (currency backed by an actual tangible resource) would allow for an economic system that can regulate itself more effectively through supply and demand. This is merely one of my many brilliant solutions I have come up with. I know there are many others who read this blog that have far more experience and knowledge financially and politically. I would love to hear some ideas on how to create a better government. Let's begin the comment stampede.

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