The Ultimate Pillar of Success: Be an Existential DJ

Arts, Education, Front Page, Human Interest, Opinion/Editorial, Science

       Imagine the sheer astonishment of Leonardo Da Vinci if he were suddenly alive and flying in a 747 at 35,000 feet above the ground. Can you see his mind-body – all his senses – become arrested in a state of complete Nirvana? Can you see him gasping at the recognition and acknowledgment of the fact that one of his wildest luminary visions is now a reality. The nature of humanity, however, suggests that the sublime bliss of this experience is likely to dissipate by more than half by the time he sets foot on his return flight. The emotional return on the experience will continue to diminish with each passing flight until one day he will get on the airplane, shut his window, shut his eyes, and hope for a new dream to entertain him during the hours that follow.

         What happened to his awe? What happened to the ecstasy? This diminished return on experience is known as, hedonic adaptation (def. the tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative life events or changes). It so happens that being awestruck is the key to being our best selves, the key to our inspiration, and the key to liberating our inner genius. When in a state of utter surprise, we are attentive, we learn more, we think and perform better. These behaviors define what it means to be in an ecstatic state of mind (aka – a “flow state” or “the zone”). Unfortunately, the more exposed we become to the goings-on of the world around us, the less surprised or compelled we are by anything that happens, and the less affected we are by the sheer magnificence that engulfs being a living, breathing human being.

          So how do we transcend the been-theres and done-thats of our adult minds – the banality of our everyday lives? Can we reverse-engineer the experiences that allow us to use our minds in the most optimal way and tap into our highest potential? Legendary observationist, Charles Darwin, said: “Attention, if sudden and close, graduates to surprise; and this into astonishment; and this into stupefied amazement.”

Charles Darwin resting against pillar covered with vines.

           But how many of us today have the attention span of Charles Darwin? And how, in a world where the patience to pay attention to any one thing is so rapidly in decline, can we mindfully slow down and focus for long enough to become interested? Might this not explain why children seem less and less likely to sit through a full-length movie, but prefer instead to watch YouTube?

 

       We know that our minds and moods are dictated by neurochemistry. After years of examination, science seems to have become fairly accurate in identifying scenarios that trigger the chemicals which cause us to feel, think, and act in the various ways that we do. So, if scientists can predict which chemical will be released during a given situation, then we should be able to – using a variety of methods – author our own neurochemical Nirvana. Timothy Leery obviously believed so. And his “trippy” method, though highly controversial and ultimately unsuccessful, is still very much in use today. MDMA, for instance, is being prescribed to PTSD and OCD patients on a regular basis, and in many of these cases is being reported to have, in one afternoon, the same effect of 10 years of psychotherapy. (And yes, I did just use 3 acronyms in one sentence.) Using drugs as tools or loopholes to alter our state of consciousness in search of ecstasy is no doubt a controversial topic. But perhaps, through a delicate and mindful combination of psychology, technology, and pharmacology, the future will allow us to engineer our own paradise, offering us the proverbial “red pill”, a super-drug that has managed to dispense the bathwater and reprieve only the baby.

      Pharmaceuticals, however, are nowhere near our only hope. Neurochemicals, after all, are stimulated naturally and require no drug whatsoever if the human in question is disciplined enough to seek the proper experience and dedicate himself to the time and patience necessary to become submerged in said experience. For some, such ecstasy may be rendered through a specific artistic endeavor, or by spanning time in some natural or designed heterotopia; outer vastness reflects inner vastness, after all. Others might meet their hedonistic needs through meditation or Yoga, or maybe through an extreme sport where the risk of danger or injury is present. Personally, I haven’t found a high quite so exhilarating as that of leaping from the top of a tall cliff into a deep, glassy body of water. Though it is a very short rush, facing the fear of what I perceive in the moment (accurately or not) as falling to my death leaves me feeling completely alive.

 

       No matter the method, bliss and sublime well-being are consciously achievable and are not limited to fleeting moments which lie outside of our control. The final frontier has been said to be outer space, but I would contend that perhaps there is a final-final frontier, one which consists of our own inner space. You don’t need to be a “flow-junky” or a philosophical hedonist to aspire to have the key to your own happiness and your own gift of genius. As Brain Games host, Jason Silva, puts it, “Ask yourself: What makes me feel alive? What gives me the goosebumps? What makes me well up?” When you have the answer to these questions, make note of the surroundings – both those which lie without as well as those which lie within. Nail down the formula, and then, like a DJ with all the tools at your fingertips, tweak and tailor each component. Mix, match, and harmonize your own Nirvana.

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Matthew Thornton is an Austin-based artist and a history teacher. Originally from Corpus Christi, his wide-sweeping artistic interests range from writing and film-making to photography and painting. His work and studies explore patterns within the endless nuance of life as he remains constantly in search of the so-called, “big picture”.

“The Napoleon of the West”: A Political Cat with 9 Lives

Corpus Christi, Education, Flour Bluff, Front Page, Government and Politics, Human Interest, International Issues, Local history

     Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna served 11 terms (6 official and 5 unofficial) as president of Mexico between the years of 1833-1855. For his many efforts, the cunning and self-proclaimed, “Napoleon of the West”, proved to be as charming as he was inept, cycling in and out of favor (and exile) with the Mexican people throughout his career in Mexican politics.

The War for Mexican Independence: 1821

     During the Mexican War for Independence, a young Santa Anna fought in the Spanish Royalist Army where he learned the merciless atrocities of war during battles such as that which occurred in Medina, Texas in 1813, where an estimated 1300 rebels were slaughtered and executed in what is known to be the bloodiest battle ever fought on Texas soil. During the final year of the Mexican Revolution (1821), Santa Anna saw the tides turning in favor of the rebels and he opted to switch sides to support an independent Mexico. Such antics, when coupled with his highly touted charming demeanor, won him influence among citizens and politicians in Mexico City. In 1833, Santa Anna was elected president of the young Mexican Republic, marking the beginning of what became a roller-coaster career characterized by intense peaks and valleys.

The Texas Revolution: 1836

     Two years into his presidency, he faced another rebellion in the Anglo colonies, one which was eventually led by Lone Star Legend, Sam Houston, and which culminated in the loss of Texas for Mexico. With intent to quell the rebellion and punish the Texian rebels, Santa Anna marched north with an army of thousands during the dead of winter in 1835, a rare season in Mexican history that saw record low temperatures and 15-16 inches of snow. His infamous victory at the Alamo might actually be viewed as a loss had the Mexican Army not killed the entirety of some 200 Texans who gave their lives holding the mission. For his efforts over the 13-day battle, Santa Anna lost 3 times the number of troops he defeated in the Alamo before splitting his army in a blundering effort to surround Sam Houston and 900 more rebels who were on the march near San Jacinto. At the most inopportune of times, the Napoleon of the West decided to take a siesta in an open field near a small lake, and opted not to post guards, a move that set the stage for his first big fall and his own Waterloo. Under surprise attack, Mexico lost the war in 18 minutes to the Texans at San Jacinto. In the heat of the strike, Santa Anna fled the scene on horseback and was found the following morning hiding in a thicket of brush. After his capture, the Mexican president attempted to conceal his identity after having swapped his general’s uniform for that of a common soldier. Once identified, he famously traded Texas to Sam Houston in exchange for his own life, triggering the first of many falls from favor within the public eye of Mexico. In proper fashion, Austin, Texas, was originally named Waterloo as a poke at Santa Anna’s self-proclaimed Napoleonic likeness.

The Pastry Wars: 1838

     In 1838, Santa Anna seized an opportunity for redemption while fending off a French invasion of Mexico. He once again led Mexican troops in what became another major Mexican military loss, but negotiations between France and the Mexican government eventually settled the dispute and brought end to the invasion. Though he had notched his belt with another difficult loss on the battlefield, Santa Anna was met with renewed support from the Mexican people for his will and ability to quickly rally troops and come to the defense of the country. For his troubles during the conflict, Santa Anna managed to lose his leg to cannon fire, an incident for which he chose to hold a formal burial with full military honors for his sacrificed limb. He famously donned a wooden prosthetic after the leg was successfully amputated.

The Mexican-American War: 1846-1848

     During the early 1840’s, Santa Anna once again lost the support of his people and had been exiled to Cuba around the same time Manifest Destiny had begun to cause friction between America and Mexico. By 1846, the U.S. declared war on Mexico after 11 American soldiers were killed by the Mexican Army along the Rio Grande. The war itself was one of high political controversy on the part of the United States, but once again, Santa Anna would get his chance to revive a career destined not to die. He booked passage on a boat from Cuba to Mexico, a voyage which was intercepted by the U.S. Military. Upon inspection, Santa Anna assured the U.S. government that he would go to Mexico and negotiate peace agreements to bring the war to end. Though his cunning nature preceded him, the Americans took the bait and Santa Anna returned to Mexico only to be given full command of 20,000 troops with the hope that he might be able to prevent the loss of the northern half of the Mexican national territory to the Americans. No such defense was in order, however. Santa Anna’s army was defeated at Cerro Gordo, a battle which ended somewhat satirically when the Mexican general’s chariot was raided by the 4th Regiment of the Illinois Volunteer Infantry. In yet another effort to flee from capture, Santa Anna jumped on his horse and rode away. In his frantic hurry, however, he managed to leave behind his peg-leg, which was confiscated by the Americans and became a prized war trophy for the American victory. The leg, to this day, remains on display at the Illinois State Military Museum in Springfield.

The Gadsden Purchase: 1853

     After losing the northern half of its nation, Mexico once again retracted its support for their on-again-off-again leader. He was again sent into exile – this time to Jamaica – and as had been seen before would again return and become the president of Mexico. In 1853, a resurgence of conservative efforts brought Santa Anna back into power. Upon his arrival back into office, he found that the government was in dire need of cash if it hoped to maintain a military. After much negotiation and in the interest of raising federal funds, Santa Anna accepted a $10 million dollar offer from the U.S. in exchange for a nearly 30,000 square mile tract of land which served as the final puzzle piece in completing the expansion of the American southwest.

From Staten Island to Chewing Gum: 1855

     In 1855, after falling from grace in the Mexican public for his last time, Santa Anna was exiled to Staten Island where, in a roundabout way, he became acquainted with an inventor by the name of Thomas Adams. At the time, Santa Anna had been importing a chewy, rubbery substance harvested from Mexican sapodilla trees. Adams was intrigued and hoped to use the substance in order to find a way to produce a rubber substitute. Santa Anna, still holding onto dreams of a return to power, saw an opportunity to finance his return to Mexico. The project, however, failed after a $30,000 effort. Adams did, somewhat ironically, manage to find a way to add a combination of flavor and sweeteners to the plant, which led him to produce what he referred to as, “rubber chewing gum.” Adams went on to brand a chewing gum company that would become the largest in the country, later eclipsed only by Wrigley’s and Chiclets. Santa Anna, though he would eventually return to Mexico City, never reclaimed his power in politics, and lived to be 82 years old before dying of natural causes.

        The life and career of Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna is nothing shy of a story worth telling, but moreover, might be better used as a didactic tale serving to warn citizens of the potential folly which can result from pouring public trust, support, and votes into leaders who simply look and speak in manners that are attractive.

Related article:  “Sand, Smugglers, and Santa Anna Helped Name Flour Bluff”

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Matthew Thornton is an Austin-based artist and a history teacher. Originally from Corpus Christi, his wide-sweeping artistic interests range from writing and film-making to photography and painting. His work and studies explore patterns within the endless nuance of life as he remains constantly in search of the so-called, “big picture”.

From Sea to Shining Sea: A Brief History of Mexico’s Northern Territory

Front Page, Local history

     The history of Mexico’s northern territory is, in the most literal sense, brief. Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821. By 1848, northern Mexico, which consisted of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado was ceded to The United States.

     Though it is not well-remembered, the new Mexican Republic (finalized in 1824) lacked citizenship in the north. Most Mexicans lived near Mexico City and could not be persuaded to move up to the northern provinces. Still, the Mexican government believed it needed a loyal presence if they hoped to secure the entirety of their new country. By the time they created their first federal constitution in 1824, Mexican officials had determined that they could entice Anglo-American settlers to give up their American citizenship, become Catholic, learn Spanish, and commit to becoming a part of the Mexican culture in exchange for ultra-cheap land in Texas. Empresarios like Stephen F. Austin began taking large land grants to recruit and settle hundreds of American families in Texas at the cost of about 12.5 cents per acre, a price that was only about 10% the cost of land being sold in America at the time. There were even greater price incentives for those who were willing to marry into the Mexican culture and have children.

     Between the years of 1821-1830, the Anglo-American presence in Texas exploded, eventually leaving Tejanos (Texans of Mexican descent) outnumbered by Americans to the tune of about 10 to 1. In 1828, Mexico sent a government official – General Manuel Mier y Teran – to the Texas colonies to check in and see that their new American counterparts were living lives that were loyal to the Mexican Republic. To little surprise, he found that English was the dominant language, and a genuine loyalty to Mexico was lacking.

     “As one covers the distance from San Antonio de Bejar to this town, he will note that Mexican influence decreases until arriving (in the colonies) where he will see that it is almost nothing… The ratio of Mexicans to foreigners is 1 to 10… It could not be otherwise than that from such a state of affairs should arise an antagonism (conflict) between the Mexicans and foreigners… Therefore, I am warning you to take timely measures. Texas could throw the whole nation into revolution…” – General Manuel Mier y Teran

     In 1830, Mexico decided they had seen enough, and they attempted to close the border in Texas to prevent any further immigration of Americans. They attempted to enforce new laws and new taxes (under the Law of April 6th, 1830), but it was too late; the Anglo population who had once been referred to as Texicans had begun to simply call themselves Texans. The Texas Revolution broke out in 1835, and in less than a year, Mexico lost Texas in another mythically-charged story of the underdog.

     In 1845, just 10 years after the Republic of Texas was born, America coined the term Manifest Destiny to implore the U.S. government to adopt Texas as a state in the union. Texas was accepted that winter as the 28th state. Convinced that America had devised a plan to steal Texas, Mexico furiously threatened war, and in the spring of 1846, The Mexican-American War began in a dispute over the southern border of Texas. Evidence suggests that American president, James Polk, consciously lured Mexico into the fight so that he could fulfill his presidential promise – Manifest Destiny. In 1848, after 2 years of fighting, the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo ceded Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and California to the United States. In the same year, gold was struck in Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California, which marked the beginning of the famously lucrative California Gold Rush – a race for wealth of which Mexico reaped no benefit.

     In the Spanish culture, when land is gained, it is never to be ceded – not sold, and certainly not stolen. In 1832 – the same year in which Santa Anna became the president of Mexico, and several years before northern Mexico became Southern America – General Manuel Mier y Teran lay down on his sword in a fit of depression that stemmed from what he perceived to be the beginning of the end of his country. Perhaps Teran’s suicide expresses such a generalized sentiment. And though much more could be said about the loss of Mexico’s northern territory, one may suffice to say that, in the end, it was the unchecked, open borders in Texas that provided America with opportunity to proliferate, expand, and conquer nearly half of the Mexican Republic.

     In 2016, in the wake of an upset election in the U.S., perhaps Trump’s wall – be it virtual or literal, tall or small – is not the answer to the illegal immigration problems that face America today. But in flashing back on an important time in early Mexican history, it might be fair to conclude that Mexico wishes they had taken illegal immigration a bit more seriously than they did in the 1820’s.

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Matthew Thornton is an Austin-based artist and a history teacher. Originally from Corpus Christi, his wide-sweeping artistic interests range from writing and film-making to photography and painting. His work and studies explore patterns within the endless nuance of life as he remains constantly in search of the so-called, “big picture”.

Futurism – Is It Natural to Become More Man-Made

Front Page, Opinion/Editorial, Science

     In an age where smart phones are visibly evolving to become a part of our hands, and during which we carry more knowledge in our pockets than we can hold in our heads, we must take pause and ask ourselves: What is the real meaning of natural selection? What will our species become in the next 100 years? 500 years? Are we turning science-fiction into science-fact? Will the future be less about building robots and more about building ourselves into robots?

future 

     I was listening to popular futurist, Ray Kurzweil, speak about the exponential growth of humanity as it relates to technology, and he posed an example regarding books. His idea is that books and learning take too long (a fact I have always recognized). Soon, we will be able to link our brains to the cloud and access every book we ever wanted to read but didn’t have time to do so. The information will just be stored in there for us to reference while at work or during casual conversation. Imagine the pattern association involved in having so much information readily available. Imagine the infinite possibility that would result from such exponential growth of knowledge. The 1980’s hit, Short Circuit, may have gotten it wrong when Johnny Five blazingly flipped through book after book, absorbing “input”, as he so famously called it. There will be no need for turning pages. We will simply plug in and connect to input. No longer will there be issues surrounding a lack of information, but only the problem of deciding which information to use and how best to use it. This, of course, is just one mind-blowing example from the utterings of futurists like Mr. Kurzweil.

     Oddly enough, at least once a day, I look at my 12-year-old students at school as they obsess over their smart phones, and I fear the years ahead. As I watch them, my predicting mind envisions a future that looks more like Mike Judge’s Idiocracy than that of the one imagined by Ray Kurzweil. My inner-monologue goes something to the effect of: “Our devices make us dumber because they do all the work, and do it so fast that careful thought is rendered unnecessary, and we are left with too much time on our hands and not nearly enough productive ways with which to fill it, meaning we will end up spending our days eating junk that rots our guts and watching rubbish that fries our brains…” Okay, I just became my mom between the years of 1987 and 1997 (I was a part of the MTV generation, after all).

kids-on-cell-phones

     Perhaps Kurzweil’s vision will play out in the reality of those who are driven, and Judge’s vision will play out in those who are not – thus creating the largest ever divide between those who are smart and those who are stupid (I am purposely avoiding the use of politically correct language in order to avoid confusion).  Sooo… should extremist egalitarians stop supporting technology in order to prevent any such divide and revive the hippy-communal movement of the Sixties where everyone gave up their technology and their possessions (and their jobs), and spent their days in Golden Gate Park indulging in Timothy Leary’s chemistry experiment which turned hate into love, love into confusion, and confusion back into hate? I digress…

     The truth is, like it or not, technology is growing at an exponential rate and is shaping our lives in the same way. Tools are meant to extend our reach, and if used appropriately, do so. When we imagine extra-terrestrials from some far-flung galaxy in deep space being so far ahead of our own evolution that they have mastered interstellar travel, a little piece of us smiles inside at the sheer wonderment of what could be. Much of what is impossible today will become the reality of tomorrow. And the astonishment of our imaginings will not be so astonishing when such dreams come true because they will do so as part of a natural and practical process. When I think back to being 8 years old, imagining the day I might hold a phone to my ear in a red, white, and blue corvette (it was definitely the 80’s), I laugh because we have actually reached the point where holding a phone to your ear in a car is not only possible, but has been for so long that we have learned it to be dangerous, and thus, have made it illegal. What a big thing I thought I was dreaming at the time, but when the day came that I could actually drive and talk on a phone at the same time, I wasn’t so astonished because the change occurred gradually and in a way that made good sense. When I was 8, my imaginings were more magical, more fantastical. An emotional letdown perhaps, but it doesn’t change the fact that my wildest childhood dreams became child’s play reality in less than 20 years. If the curve continues as it has, who knows what I stand to see as an old man.

     When I think of what is natural, however, technology and its astronomical progression does not immediately seem to fit the mold. After all, natural, we are taught, is that which is not man-made. But is it not natural to evolve, to build tools that allow us to build more tools, and to use anything we have at our disposal to see as far as we can at any given moment?  Yes – the tools, like the times, they are a changin’ – but the more things change, the more they tend to stay the same. Apart from the tools themselves, is anything we are doing really so different at the core? Two-hundred years from now, there will be an entirely new population of people on earth, all with better tools that will allow them to build even better tools, and my mind lingers around the idea that they, too, will be dancing around the same thoughts that I have today.  Perhaps the new natural is building devices that aid us in becoming more assured in our health and more advanced in our minds – more “man-made.”  Of course, this all assuming that we as a people do not suddenly decide to settle where we are with the tools we have and stop moving forward.

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Matthew Thornton is an Austin-based artist and a history teacher. Originally from Corpus Christi, his wide-sweeping artistic interests range from writing and film-making to photography and painting. His work and studies explore patterns within the endless nuance of life as he remains constantly in search of the so-called, “big picture”.

“We Need to Start Listening to One Another” – But Are We Really Capable?

Front Page, Government and Politics, Opinion/Editorial, Sports

Colin Kaepernick red color car

     In the wake of a turbulent summer, neither Olympics nor vacation could shield us from an intense and evolving racial conflict that is again sweeping across the country.  Amidst the chaos, a new buzz has emerged around an old problem, something to the effect of “We need to start listening to one  another.” A simple statement indeed, but what a mouthful. Like every other outspoken American, I am a salesman. Right now, most of my days consist of selling history to seventh graders.  Therefore, when I hear people turning a skill such as listening into a political catch phrase, I perk up.  Unfortunately, the current use of the phrase contains about as much backbone as the chirp, chirp, chirping of “America needs change…”  Such slogans are political gems because they bypass brains and get feet in motion. After all, a talking a parrot could protest, but that doesn’t make him any more human than a skydiver with a parachute is a bird. Listening is no doubt a problem, but before we go waving our protest signs, let’s see if we can’t figure out why it is such a problem. From what I can tell, our failure to listen to one another stems from a combination of the following:

  1. Distractions: some brains move so fast that they literally struggle to slow down for long enough to listen to incoming ideas. (I know, I know, Reader, this is definitely your problem).
  2. Some people are selfish, and they don’t care what others have to say.
  3. Some listen only for what they want to hear and exclude everything else.
  4. Some only listen to those who maintain a certain status that is appealing.
  5. People do not see the world for what it is, but rather, they see it for what they are or for what they wish to be.

     The list could go on, but I stop with the above 5 because they are the sources of our topic today, and in fact, they are the sources that have polarized the latest actions by Colin Kaepernick, the backup quarterback in San Francisco who has been protesting the national anthem before games because he is, “not going to stand up and show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

     We live in a world of perception. Most of us have heard or have even used this expression, but have we really taken the time to feel the gravity of its meaning? The scientific truth is that there are too many pieces of information flying at us at a given time for our brains to digest it all.  Like a complicated algorithm, our minds absorb as much as they can and then start searching for patterns.  They then use the patterns to fill in the blanks for the information that we failed to digest. Depending on our memories and personal biases, our vision of a given pattern may or may not be true to the world we think we see.

     In the case of NFL star, Colin Kaepernick, many are watching, listening, and firing off responses at will. From what I can tell, however, most responses are being made without having really listened to the entire scenario, which has led to a lack of consideration for certain facts surrounding Mr. Kaepernick’s current situation. What follows is a combination of direct quotes and general sentiments that seem to be circulating through both social and mainstream media.  Beneath each statement, I have attempted to fill in key circumstantial material that is lacking. Of course, I would be remiss not to admit up front that my own take certainly comes with the bias of my own view of the world I am seeing, so feel free to proceed with salt shaker in hand.

Take #1 – The Fellow Pro Athlete and Activist, Jim Brown

 “It’s great to see athletes bring protest back to professional sports, when for so long, money and brand reigned supreme.” – Jim Brown

     Fair enough, Mr. Brown. Nobody knows professional sports better than you do. However, there are a few facts that might be missing from your analysis. First of all, in 2014, Colin Kaepernick signed a 7-year, 126 million dollar contract. However, because of Kap’s flat ensuing performance, he was benched and is now the official backup quarterback to Blaine Gabbert, reducing the guaranteed amount of his massive contract to about 25 million dollars. To clarify, no matter what he does going forward with the Niners organization, Kap will likely walk away with neither a penny more nor a penny less than 25 million dollars. Given such circumstances, there are a few more questions that might be raised: How much is he really risking when he sits down during the national anthem? Would he be carrying on with these protests, risking the disjoining of his team and so forth, if he were the starter right now? And, after seemingly milking his brand as a poster-boy quarterback in the league for all it was worth, is becoming an athletic activist a way of stamping a new brand, a way of using his old celebrity to gain new celebrity?

Take #2 – The President of NAACP

“It’s not a stretch to compare Colin Kaepernick to Rosa Parks.” – Cornell Williams Brooks

See above: Rosa Parks never stood, sat, or otherwise with the thought that she would walk away with 25 million dollars.  She made her move out of necessity, plain and simple.

Take #3 – The MLK Argument

Some are simply posting the following quote alongside Kaepernick’s name:

“First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate… who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action…” – MLK

     Quoting MLK and expecting people to disagree is like quoting Hitler and expecting people to share his view, so I will tread lightly when I say that Colin Kaepernick protesting in favor of the sentiments being expressed by Black Lives Matter is in many ways incongruent to the Civil Rights Movement led by Martin Luther King, Jr.  One key factor, however, differentiates the BLM and MLK: violence.  King promoted peaceful protest and even taught protesters how to fall limp to the ground when being met with force by police officers.  Since 2014, BLM has accounted for 11 police officer killings and 9 officer injuries. Though most of the activists in BLM are preaching and practicing non-violence, the message of the movement is being muddied by murder, much to the injustice of those who would like their thoughts to be heard.

owen-in-caller-times
Owen Beseda (Caller-Times)

Take #4 – The Conservative Constitutionalist

“Veterans fight for our freedom to challenge the status quo, and Kaepernick is exercising that right.” – US Military Veterans (written in a collective letter)

               Of all the arguments that support his actions, this may be the most sensible reasoning for Colin Kaepernick’s method of protest. However, an argument can be made that Mr. Kaepernick, too, is guilty of listening only for that which he wants to hear, only to that which gives him a reason to sit in protest of the United States of America. If he knew (and perhaps he does) that annual crime reports released by the FBI show that in excess of 90% of violent crimes committed against black people are committed by other blacks, and not police officers, would he be so quick to spread such a critical blanket over the entire country? In fact, Roland Fryer, an economics professor at Harvard University, and an African-American citizen himself, did a study of 1,000 different police involved shootings and found that there was ZERO evidence of racial bias in these shootings. Does Kap care to hear about any such statistic or study? Perhaps he has simply decided that it is okay to press a stereotypical stamp on law enforcement agencies across the entire country for actions that have unfolded in several isolated incidents. The hypocrisy, however, is that his protest serves to pigeonhole the entire country for its alleged pigeonholing of an entire race. Moreover, if he really believes what he is saying, then why stop with protests during the pre-game performance? Why not take off your football cleats, put on your work boots, and get down to the streets where the trenches are murky and the work is plentiful?

               Perhaps the entire country – people of color and the white majority – have missed the mark in analyzing racial injustice. Perhaps what we have perceived to be issues about race aren’t really about skin-color at all. After all, can we imagine that Colin Kaepernick’s life of extreme wealth is really so different than that of Tom Brady, a fellow NFL quarterback with a large bank account who just happens to have white skin? And by the same token, does the life of a poor person really change so much from race to race? Certainly the U.S. is neither cleansed nor exempt from bigotry, but is life in America really so very bad? It is true after all, that the odds of a man dying at the hands of another man today are far less than ever in human history. It is also true that humans all over the world are living better than they ever have before, and America, as it has been for so long, is still a top destination for people who are looking for the land of opportunity. When we sit back and watch the news, perhaps another story is being funneled into our heads, but the truth is as it has always been: there are good people and bad people in the world, and in a melting-pot country with more than 300 million citizens and a diverse socio-economic and ethnic background, America has its fair share of both. Is it possible to stop there with the description? Do we really need the Colin Kaepernicks of the country to tell us where we stand (or when we should kneel)? I suppose I have been listening with perhaps as much of a flawed ear as anyone else but can say with certainty that a protest by the wealthiest backup quarterback in the NFL isn’t going to provide me with my moment of Eureka!

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Matthew Thornton is an Austin-based artist and a history teacher. Originally from Corpus Christi, his wide-sweeping artistic interests range from writing and film-making to photography and painting. His work and studies explore patterns within the endless nuance of life as he remains constantly in search of the so-called, “big picture”.

A Day Well-Spent

Front Page, Opinion/Editorial

     Throughout Benjamin Franklin’s life, he consistently devoted about an hour each day to deliberate learning. He woke up early to read and write; he set personal growth goals (which he later shaped into 13 Virtues); he created clubs for like minds to share ideas toward collective improvement; he did experiments; and he opened and closed each day with reflection questions. Without a doubt, Ben Franklin was a lifelong learner. However, by giving an hour of time to self-education, he sacrificed an hour that could otherwise be used to work and complete some other daily task. Therefore, over the course of a week, one might find that Ben did not accomplish as much as he would have had he spent those extra 5 hours in labor. To carry the math further, if he completed 5 fewer hours of work per week, then he completed 20 fewer hours per month, and 240 fewer hours per year. Yet, in the course of his lifetime, he completed so much quality work that he is today known as a Renaissance Man and one of the most accomplished geniuses the world has ever produced. Needless to say, his investment paid off in a far greater way than the simple sum of hours he seemingly lost to study. Ironically (or perhaps not), he produced more in the long-term by producing less in the short-term, validating such truisms as “think before you act…” and “less can often be more.”

     On the contrary, if Franklin is proof that learning opens our minds in ways that better our chances of making an impact over the long haul, then how do we explain those folks who are as cantankerous and self-righteous as they are educated? We’ve all encountered “know-it-alls” whose knowledge we are forced to respect in spite of their tunnel-vision. Unfortunately, learning for many exists on a Bell curve; it is good until it isn’t good anymore. In its early stages, new knowledge opens the mind, broadens the horizon of possibility, and eventually allows the learner to form well-researched opinions. While this process is both natural and admirable, the learning stages that follow strong opinions can become a hindrance to free thought and openness. For so many, any learning that occurs after opinions are firm is done so as a method for validating said opinions. Therefore, real life-long learning must be deliberately sought out as a matter of self-reflection and as a method for challenging the validity of current beliefs. Franklin’s 13 Virtues, after all, were created as a means for explaining and overcoming his shortcomings rather than a simple recipe for all his great success.

          In life, we are forced each day to choose how we will spend our time. What will we do and what will we avoid? What is worthy and what isn’t? If you have never taken the time to read and interpret Franklin’s 13 Virtues, I encourage everyone to do so. I would also like to conclude by sharing my own simple and general checklist for what I call, A Day Well-Spent.

      A Day Well-Spent:

      Time is spent wisely if it accomplishes one or any combination of the following:

  1. Builds Your Knowledge and Free Thought
    • Learn, apply, reflect, and repeat.
  2. Builds Your Bank Account
    • Money is very simply a problem everyone needs to solve in order to afford themselves time and opportunity.
  3. Builds Your Health
    • You can live to be 100 if you give up all of the things that make you want to be 100.” – Woody Allen
  4. Feeds Your Soul
    • Spirituality matters. Period. “Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.” – Gandhi
  5. Create, Share, Inspire
    • In one way or another, building things, contributing to bettering the world, and inspiring others to do the same is what we are all meant to do.

For now, farewell, and may your day be well-spent!

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Matthew Thornton is an Austin-based artist and a history teacher. Originally from Corpus Christi, his wide-sweeping artistic interests range from writing and film-making to photography and painting. His work and studies explore patterns within the endless nuance of life as he remains constantly in search of the so-called, “big picture”.

Brexit: Good or Bad?

Business, Corpus Christi, Front Page, Government and Politics, Opinion/Editorial

https://i0.wp.com/s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/d0/53/4f/d0534fff31b0c64c7110bbe1594aac06.jpg?resize=332%2C191&ssl=1

     Donald E. Westlake was a supreme sensation when it came to writing the Comic Caper novel. His most famous work features a character by the name of John Dortmunder, a criminal mastermind, and the world’s unluckiest crook. In 1972, The Hot Rock, Westlake’s first novel in the Dortmunder series, was adapted for the big-screen with Robert Redford leading a team of lovable losers on the quest to steal a large diamond from an alarm-less museum. Dortmunder, fresh out of prison, is approached by his brother-in-law with his first opportunity to do what he does best: plan (and fumble) the big score. In the following quote, Dortmunder weighs the pros and cons in order to rationalize his inevitable acceptance.

Dortmunder
It’s good, and it’s bad. There’s a guaranteed return, and that’s good. But the guarantor is Amusa, and Amusa’s a rookie, and that’s bad. But it’s an easily transportable object, and that’s good. Only it’s in a rotten position in the museum, 30 steps to the quickest exit, and that’s bad. And the glass over the stone, that’s bad too, because that’s glass with metal mixed in it, bulletproof, shatterproof. But the locks don’t look impossible, 3, maybe 5 tumblers. But there’s no alarm system, and that’s the worst, because that means no one’s going to get lazy watching, knowing the alarm will pick up their mistakes. Which means the whole thing has got to be a diversion job, and that’s good and that’s bad, because if the diversion’s too big, it’ll draw pedestrians, and if the diversion’s not big enough, it won’t draw that watchman…

Kelp (the brother-in-law)
Dortmunder, I don’t know where the hell you are, or what the hell you’re saying. Just tell me, will you plan the job?

Dortmunder
[pauses, then smiles] It’s what I do.

    This article, however, is not about the fictional blunders of John Dortmunder, but rather, the Dortmunderesque rationale that may be applied to the recent panic surrounding the current state of affairs in the EU as it relates to Brexit. In the attempt to cover the pros and cons of this epic bit of world news, let us take a moment and compose a monologue channeling an inner-Dormunder as we assess the “good and the bad” of Brexit.

     First, we should retain a few important facts surrounding what seemed at first to be an otherwise unlikely departure. Ladbrokes.com, a gambling website, recorded the largest betting turnout for any political event in UK history in the days leading up to the vote. Odds landed at 4 to 1 in favor of Bremainers, meaning that a 100-dollar bet in favor of the UK remaining a part of the EU would trigger a mere 25-dollar profit. On the other hand, a 100-dollar bet on a successful Brexit would score 400 dollars. In other words, the money was on the wrong side of truth in lopsided fashion. Basically, few, including PM Cameron, believed that the democratic process would result in a majority of UK voters who no longer wanted to remain under the wide-spanning wing of the European Union. But why did people not foresee the outcome of the election? And more importantly, why did the majority vote as they did?  Certainly this is no black and white issue, and surely there must have been some sort of voter rationale, shouldn’t there?

     Back to John Dortmunder: In order to address a possible rationalization, let’s allow Dortmunder to be our voice of reason. It would go something like this:

Dortmunder

It’s good and it’s bad… There is a guaranteed immediate return in that we save 13 billion pounds per year in EU membership costs, and that’s good. But even though we currently split our profits, and more importantly, our losses with 27 other countries, we now will be forced to depend on our own economy, which means our losses will rest sorely on our own shoulders, and that’s bad.

But it’s a large shift away from the fear of globalization and the apocalyptic dread of those who foresee a trend toward one-world government, and that’s good. Only we are in the rotten position of being the first major nation to exit, which could possibly trigger others to follow suit, and while watching the dominoes fall seems like it could be good, it is risky. It is unclear how much resentment and general backlash we could endure from the countries who will inevitably blame us for starting the exodus… and that’s bad.  And the possibility of other countries voting themselves out, in the near-term, that’s bad, too, because the union as a whole could capsize, and then trade becomes as volatile as a pregnant woman in a salami shop.

Each country could, however, secure its borders in the waking onslaught of a refugee crisis and increasing terror strikes, and that’s good… But then international travel slows down in Europe with Customs clearance checks at every border. And right away, a general malaise and uncertainty will set in, and that’s the worst, because uncertainty causes panic, and panic will drive the market through the floor at a time when we need our currency to be at its strongest. Which ultimately means that in order to save 13 billion dollars per year, we will have to live with the hefty risk of a European domino-effect and the potential disarray that such an effect could have on the global economy – and moreover – the European banking system.  And if banks begin to fail, we will no doubt be staring down the barrel of an ensuing bailout which is sure to cost UK taxpayers far more than the 13 billion we will save by going it alone.

But, by ultimately going alone, we are choosing a path of freedom, which is also good and bad, because while we are free to forge our success in any way we see fit, we will also be free to fail, which is particularly scary because not only would we suffer, but we’d be forced to swallow our pride and turn back to the union for help.

Let’s face it: freedom costs, and only time can tell whether or not we as a people truly have the salt to absorb and endure such costs. After all, some find it easier to live under varying degrees of oppression in exchange for varying degrees of certainty.  

https://timedotcom.files.wordpress.com/2016/06/160624_inv_howbrexitaffectsyou.jpg?quality=75&strip=color&w=1100&resize=423%2C254

     Now, did the voters really process the potential risks and rewards as Dortmunder would have? With a whopping 72% voter turnout, there is no way to tell for certain, but consider a few statistics and make of them what you will.

  • The average age of a person living in the UK is estimated to be around 40.
  • Of the 72%, 52% (17,410,742) voted for Brexit; 48% (16,141,241) voted against.
  • 36% of all 18-24 year olds voted; 64% stayed home.
  • 75% of the 18-24 year olds who voted, voted against Brexit.
  • 56% of 25-49 year olds voted against; 44% for.
  • 44% of 50-64 year olds voted against; 56% for.
  • 39% of those 65 and older voted against; 61% for.
  • 34% of voters with a high school education voted against; 66% for.
  • 71% of voters with a college degree voted against; 29% for.
  • 43% of The Conservative Party voted against; 57% for.
  • 69% of The Labour Party voted against; 31% for.
  • 73% of The Liberal Democratic Party voted against; 27% for.
  • 7% of The Independent Party voted against 93% for.
  • London led the way for regional Bremainers with 60% voting against Brexit.

      In the U.S., 75% of Republicans, 72% of Independents, and 59% of Democrats supported Brexit, a polling that is actually more lopsided than that of UK citizens. Now, I am not going to go to any great lengths to make heads or tails of all these statistics (readers will do that for themselves), but I will note two glaringly obvious trends:

1) The older the voters, the more likely it was that they supported Brexit.

2) The higher degree of education, the more likely it was that they supported Bremain.

     Furthermore, it is important to note that Brexit is a non-binding referendum that can only take effect 2 years after the announcement is made that they want to leave. In the time between now and then, there will be new elections, and of course, a potential retraction of the referendum. In the wake of the media firestorm and mass hysteria over Brexit, many are concerned as to how much of a global effect this will have on trade and the economy in general.

     In the first two market days after Brexit was voted in (6/24 and 6/27), the Dow dropped by a whopping 806 points, the global market declined by an estimated 3 trillion dollars, and the British pound declined in value by 10%. Why? Uncertainty. The market hates surprises, and those who invest in it, are notoriously unable to resist the temptation to act in response to their panic when events like Brexit occur.

     A financial advisor friend of mine in Corpus Christi who has made his living for well over a decade by following and predicting trends within both the national and global economic sphere had the following to say when asked about the effects we can expect to see following Brexit:   

“Brexit should affect European markets more than our own.  Globalization has created a flat and interconnected world, but Americans are not likely skipping their morning Starbucks because Britain decided to exit the European Union. The bigger risk lay in Europe.  Investors should pay particular attention to the European banks. These banks are the bobbers floating on the economic pond that offer the best glimpse of what may be lurking beneath the surface in Europe.  Stocks are leading economic indicators.  In other words, stocks usually change before the economy as a whole follows suit.  Major European bank stocks are trading at prices below the March 2009 low created by the US financial crisis.  By comparison, domestic stocks (S&P500) have rallied over 150% during the same time frame.  This disconnect between appreciating domestic markets and declining European bank valuations existed before Brexit.  The British vote did not cause the disconnect; it exacerbated it.  European bank stocks were among the hardest hit after the vote.  A week after Brexit, domestic stocks have rallied to previous highs.

“The European Union was born under the premise of reducing political tensions between countries that had been at war for the better part of the twentieth century.  The fundamental issue is that monetary union without political integration acts as a potent recipe for further political instability.  In the US, if one state experiences an economic downturn, it has the political (and monetary) support of the federal government.  By contrast, Greece is a member nation of the EU with unemployment nearing 25%.  When the country recently asked for monetary support from the EU to help the Greek government pay its sovereign debt, the EU required Greek austerity measures in exchange for its assistance.  German citizens decried publicly that their tax dollars were not collected to bail out Greek misfortunes.  Herein lies the problem.  Without substantial political power at its center to tax and control fiscal policy, the EU finds itself at an unenviable inflection point.  It can either evolve into an even closer union, where its leaders are voted into power to protect the interests of the European economy at-large.  Or, other nations can follow the British example and divert to the land of drachmas and francs and solid borders.  

“The European Union’s epitaph has yet to be chiseled into history.  Brexit represents the first shot across its bow.  Time will tell if this vote is a death knell to the union or a diagnoses that instills the necessary change for its survival.”

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Matthew Thornton is an Austin-based artist and a history teacher. Originally from Corpus Christi, his wide-sweeping artistic interests range from writing and film-making to photography and painting. His work and studies explore patterns within the endless nuance of life as he remains constantly in search of the so-called, “big picture”.

Father’s Day: Reflecting on Dad Is Reflecting on You

Around the State, Corpus Christi, Education, Flour Bluff, Front Page, National Scene, Opinion/Editorial, Personal History

Robert and Matthew Alike

     Roughly a billion dollars is spent each year on Father’s Day. It isn’t surprising, however, that when the holiday began in 1910 it was not widely celebrated. My dad always said holidays had gotten out of control and that, more than anything else, they best served to line the pockets of greeting card companies. I tend to agree with him. A family newspaper, however, is not the place to attack the gray areas of capitalism that surround celebrating holidays such as that of Father’s Day. Instead, I’d like to address that which I imagine to have been the more altruistic platform upon which such a day was invented.

     When sons and daughters reflect on their mothers and fathers they are forced to either face a mirror image of themselves, a bundle of flaws they hope never to possess, or the plain and simple fear that the person they see is one whose high water mark is seemingly unreachable. When I look at my dad and consider the most important things he tried to put in me, I sometimes find myself withholding a bit of fear that I may never level up to the mark. If I had to narrow the intangible principles that were stressed throughout my upbringing to a Top Five, they would rank as follows:

Number 5:  Flexibility: “Don’t be too particular about every little thing you do. Nobody likes being around somebody who always has to have their way.”

Number 4:  Toughness: “Whatever ails you may hurt right now, but it won’t last forever. Suck it up and keep moving forward. It’s the only way.”

Number 3:  Big-Picture Thinking: “Don’t get so hung up on little things that you find yourself incapable of zooming out and seeing the big-picture. And don’t get so hung up on yourself that you forget to tend to the little things.”

Number 2:   Humility: “If you’re ever good enough at anything that it is worth talking about, you won’t need to speak a word of it yourself. Everyone else will do it for you.”

Number 1:  Counting back from five, the first four could be easily summarized with quotes I heard time and again throughout my entire life. But number one isn’t so much a quotable phrase or sentence. My dad wasn’t necessarily big on gushy words about how much he loved my sisters and me. He tells us he loves us, sure, but more than anything else he constantly shows us a greater affection of unconditional love than any son or daughter need expect. Take, for example, the time he made an 8-hour roundtrip to Austin just to install a garden fence while my wife and I were at work because he heard her complain once that the chicken-wire she installed was falling down. By the time we got home, we didn’t find him, just a sturdy new wooden fence bordering the garden. Or, there was the time he heard me mention that I wanted to build a table top to set on a tree stump from a tree that “fell” down in our yard. A month later I drove into my parents’ driveway for the Christmas holiday, and the topper was leaning against the garage, built solid and to perfection by my father’s own hands.

table

     The examples are endless, much like that of Dad’s watchful and caring disposition. And when I consider who he is, I find – that more than anything – I am forced to consider who I am. Do I add up? Would he be proud? Should I be proud? These are the questions that pass through my head.

     How about you? Your dad? What can thinking about him teach you about you?

     Happy Father’s Day to all of you dads out there. May your weekend be relaxing and your children be thoughtful.

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Matthew Thornton is an Austin-based artist and a history teacher. Originally from Corpus Christi, his wide-sweeping artistic interests range from writing and film-making to photography and painting. His work and studies explore patterns within the endless nuance of life as he remains constantly in search of the so-called, “big picture”.

Dumb and Dumber Economics: A Middle School Guide to the Federal Debt Crisis

Front Page, National Scene, Opinion/Editorial

DUMB and DUMBER

     As a history teacher, my job is to spin all kinds of otherwise dead-and-gone facts into middle-school friendly topics.  I suppose you might say that my interest in creativity is not only spurred on by a love for the arts, but also from the day-to-day challenge of turning boring information into relevant and interesting lessons for teenagers.  The curriculum this week in 7th-grade Texas History landed my classes on “The Principles of Republican Government”, a rather riveting subject that almost always opens the portal into Ben Stein’s high school Econ course in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. “Republican Government”, mind you, is not meant to be the lopsided view of politics that it has become in the adult world, but rather a factual study of the type of government that was so intricately constructed by our Founding Fathers.  As part of the teaching, students are required not only to identify the principles that make-up a republic, but they are also required to understand the strengths and potential weaknesses of said principles.  When writing a lesson plan, I always attempt to call on my right-brain with the hope that it might prevent my left-brain from hijacking the classroom and turning Santa Anna’s Siesta into a History Alive! project, complete with desk-drool and a scathing red-mark on the forehead.

     As I sat thinking about all the points that needed to be covered, my brain stumbled (or digressed) onto the problem of national debt, a pickle all too pertinent to our republic. Being a movie-lover, I was immediately reminded of Dumb and Dumber.   Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne have an arguably fortuitous run-in with a briefcase full of cash – ransom dollars, “blood money.”  Lloyd and Harry have no idea that by holding onto the briefcase, they are putting their lives in danger.  Instead, they celebrate their good luck with a run of brash and unbridled spending.  New suits, new cars, a new life on the rise… Lloyd and Harry hit it big and weren’t looking back.  But, how would they repay the owner of the briefcase whose money they had “borrowed” and spent? “IOU’s!”

Lloyd: “That’s as good as money, sir. Those are IOU’s. Go ahead and add it up. Every cent is accounted for…”       

     “Every cent is accounted for,” he assures. Ironically enough, Dumb and Dumber were echoing the same thing Uncle Sam has been echoing to the American people for decades. In fact, every cent to the tune of nearly 19 trillion dollars is accounted for.  What does that mean as far as repayment goes?  Nothing. A s of the time of this writing, the U.S. government is set to collect 3.4 trillion dollars in revenue in 2016.  The federal budget is slated to cost roughly 3.9 trillion dollars, adding about a half-trillion more dollars to an already unfathomable debt crisis.

US-national-debt-GDP-graph

     While the latest figures are in fact an improvement when compared to previous years (e.g. 2010 deficit: 1.29 trillion dollars), there is no solution in sight, and no presidential candidate or any other elected official is talking about this Herculean elephant-in-the-room.  Instead, they continue borrowing money from a wide variety of cash sources, not the least of which includes printing new money through the Federal Reserve (also known by its American euphemism: “quantitative easing”), an action resulting not only in the devaluation of American money, but one that also accrues debt for the number of dollars printed alongside the interest charged by the fed for the printing service.

     As a lover of history and the arts, I realize I am the diametric opposite of a mathematician, but you don’t exactly have to be Euclid to see that America’s budgetary model is designed for failure. As the 2016 election closes in, the U.S. will wrap up one of the most interesting presidential races the country has ever seen.  And while it is difficult to back any candidate for fear that he or she may be leading the electorate astray, I find myself more and more inclined to focus on the economic issues, looking for the person who seems most fit to redirect the methods with which we collect and spend money.  While certainly debatable and important, most weighty social issues, tend to trail behind the primary impetus for governmental policy: money.  As goes the economy, so goes society (for the most part).

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Matthew Thornton is an Austin-based artist and a history teacher. Originally from Corpus Christi, his wide-sweeping artistic interests range from writing and film-making to photography and painting. His work and studies explore patterns within the endless nuance of life as he remains constantly in search of the so-called, “big picture”.

PlanCC 2035: Gambling with Tax Dollars

Corpus Christi, Flour Bluff, Front Page, Opinion/Editorial

PlanCC

Upon reading the didactic fable regarding Plan CC 2035 – “The Story of a Smart Plan Gone Awry” – I was reminded of a pair of quotes:

 

          “A politician is a person who will build you a bridge where there is no river.” – Nikita Khrushchev

          “Being a politician means having the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next  month, next year… and having the ability afterwards to explain why it didn’t happen.” – Winston Churchill

     Ironically, the idea that politicians so frequently create both false predictions and false promises is apparently not one that is exclusive to Americans. Mr. Khruschev, after all, was the Soviet dictator who headed up the Cold War for Russia and was dedicated to the spread of Communism throughout Southeast Asia and Cuba.

     As for the fictional story of a young couple who falls prey to their own ignorance, it does a great job in illustrating a natural progression of life and reminds us that our wants and needs will change alongside our age and the circumstances under which we live. As a first generation millennial, born in 1980, I understand that many 20-somethings (and in some cases, 30-somethings) will continue to share an infatuation with “downtown living.” Cities like San Francisco and Portland (both mentioned in the story) are growing in population each and every day, and those who move to cities like these certainly are not doing so because they want to live in the suburbs. Moreover, the urban-dwellers who live in these types of cities tend to tout their chosen locations precisely because the downtown area provides for a style of living that is as practical as it is pleasurable. While statistics show that most people still ultimately prefer to own homes outside of the city on larger plots of land, cities with downtown attractions are exploding: Austin, Fort Worth, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Boston, San Diego (to name a few). And although many of the millennials who account for this surge in downtown living will move away from the city as they grow older, another crop of young people will surely move in and replace them.

     One major problem for any city is the art of prediction and planning for the rate of growth that the city can expect to endure. It is difficult to know for certain how many people will move in, how fast they will show up, and what types of consumers they will be. New companies turn up and trigger new visitors, new residents, and new types of business. Together, these things shape and shift the culture of a given place. Because such changes are not exactly predictable from 10 or 20 years out, building a “smart city” with high-rises that reach for the sky in the attempt to force development of a downtown before there is demand for any such development may not be so smart. If high-rises are what people want, a profit-motive will emerge – and so will the high-rise.

     The city of Corpus Christi is not growing at any supreme rate and has not done so for many years. Since the year 2010, the Corpus population has risen by some 15,000 people. When considering the massive influx of new Texans moving to the state each day, it is clear that the Coastal Bend is not carrying the same degree of gravity as that of central and north-central Texas. Moreover, the largest portion of the growth that Corpus has experienced has occurred from the outside-in, starting with the suburbs.

Population CC
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

https://i0.wp.com/res.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/img/census_cities.jpg?resize=385%2C561

population of texas

     Although Plan CC 2035 may not qualify precisely as “smart growth”, it does lay the ground work for a city that is pouring tax dollars into the development of the inner city while attempting to shrink urban sprawl and the expansion of suburbia. Certainly such a method of development has been happily embraced by the citizens of cities such as San Francisco and Portland. However, in a city like Corpus Christi, a key weakness in smart growth mentality becomes accentuated as the local government engages in a combination of prediction (the key concept in the fable) and money-spending, which is more recognizable by its other description: gambling. Of course, when the government gambles, they do so on the dime of taxpayers.

     Under its current conditions, the city of Corpus Christi shows no signs of demand for a plan that aims to eventually cut into the expansion of suburbia. In fact, based on the small growth that has taken place, there appears to be more of a demand for suburban life than anything else. Unfortunately, when a city starts down a path like that of smart growth (or any other prediction-driven policy), it falls into a pattern of attempting to fulfill the needs of some (e.g. those who prefer to live downtown) by sacrificing the needs of others (e.g. those who prefer to live in other parts of the city). In the case of Corpus Christi and Plan CC 2035, the needs that are being placed on the chopping blocks are those of the majority. Worst of all, the majority has remained silent because they are largely unaware of these potential changes and the lasting effect they could have on them, their children, and their grandchildren.

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Matthew Thornton is an Austin-based artist and a history teacher. Originally from Corpus Christi, his wide-sweeping artistic interests range from writing and film-making to photography and painting. His work and studies explore patterns within the endless nuance of life as he remains constantly in search of the so-called, “big picture”.