Tuesday, February 17, 2004



So the concept of vested interest, as I understand it, is the understanding or the completion of the connection between two entities. I think that this phrase is most often seen in retirement investments where a person’s potential percentage of return grows over time until he/she is entitled to 100%, or is “fully vested” in the fund. I thought I wanted to talk a little bit about vested interest today as it applies to both worker productivity, and eventually to our connection to our own lives.

I remember having a conversation a long time ago with a colleague of mine in some sales related business. We were talking about how hard we had to work to make sales and that I was feeling that it really didn’t seem worth it. He said that the answer was to do my own business and stop working for others. What we were doing was nothing compared to how hard you work when you have your own business, but there you would love it. I asked him if this was because we now shared the profits with the house and in our own business we could keep the lions share of what we made. He said no. Though acknowledging a greater profit potential, he told me it had more to do with one’s sense of self worth than purely about money. He said that when working for other people, you were obligated to defer some part of yourself and your thinking in favor of whom you were working for. He explained further that we are generally selfish entities and that needing to place another’s life before our own was possible, but was not all that natural or very good for generating a feeling of wellbeing. I offered that everybody works for other people in one way or another, but he countered with the thought that it was necessary to feel and believe that there was a personal connection and benefit to yourself in any work you did, or it was simply no good. You needed to have a vested interest in what you were doing in order for the work to feel like what you were doing made sense.

To me at least he turned out to be very right. Afterward, I took up service related jobs because at least there I had some control over the quality of the product I was representing. Of course I had less money, but all in all, I think I was happier.

Anyway, what all this has to do with societal interaction has everything to do with the general feeling of connectedness people feel when going about their lives. Going back to our models from yesterday, I think you can see that the connection and interaction between people who believe that they are home is enormously more than that for the second model where the dot streaks past everybody on their way to somewhere else. When someone goes to work for the first model, they are completely aware of for whom and why they have gone to work. They can also see the direct connection that that work has to the community they are from. In other words, there is a natural vested interest that exists simply because one would feel one’s connection to the place they were living in. This would influence the quality of the work greatly.

In the second model though, our comet wouldn’t likely feel very much for the place they were from, and therefore would feel no pain as a result of their not caring very much what happened to it when they were gone. They simply wouldn’t care about such banal thoughts as their friends or the family home because they were the important ones and they were on their way to do something important (though for who that would be important is of course, unclear).

So which is better? Well, you know my answer. But also, there is one facet of the argument that I have left out. And, it is the single most important part of vested interest, because without it, even the strongest direct to food and home connection is meaningless. That part of the machine is called love. Without having some love for ones home, there really is no vested interest possible. And as far as concerned the first model, that home would become a prison if the love were to be removed.

And this is exactly what has happened to place that I am currently inhabiting. There was a time when the concept of “home” was so strong here that people were willing to stay and hold down the fort for six years without pay. Listen to that statement again, just for effect: They stayed and worked together trying to hold together their homes for six years without pay. Why would they do this? Well, they did this because they had a real, and genuine vested interest in the place. They knew and felt that the work that they did here was for the good of all, that the general idea of the place was that every body knew that, therefore you were never alone in what you did, and in the end, all would be OK. That was worth six year of poverty. But they had it. Oh, yes they did!

I feel that it is that we lack this love of home now in our own shooting star model that we failed to behave in some sympathetic way to the people of the second when the wall came down and they opened the doors. We in fact went the other way and simply became harder. I am going to talk about that tomorrow…

But look at us: Our story is that 99% of every young person in the whole of the “free” world cannot wait to get away from the “prison” that the place they were born has become. The young people don’t really know where they are going, or really even what they are doing, but they know that certainly the grass must be greener on the other side of the hill. And that they are not going to waist another moment of their precious lives in mom and dad’s old crappy pasture.

Sound about right? So what is the real difference? Well, there is no connection to the place, no vested interest. And more specifically, that damned crappy pasture needs to be cared for before the cow can eat from it. And the caring for the pasture used to be the work of the guy who got to drink the milk from the cow. That connection was real enough. And knowing that what goes into the ground, goes into the cow and what gets into the cow, gets into the milk and then into you. This used to be the stuff home was made out of. I would think this sort of connection would give someone a damned solid vested interest in that land and eventually all of our lands. But we don’t do that anymore, do we?

I don’t really know what great destiny our lives are supposed to hold for us, but I do know that the million dollars that goes to the single winner of island survivor does nothing in general for the 25 people that go home sun burnt and under weight and without a penny. And, that none of it amounted to anything more than a few hours of rather grizzly entertainment for me that only makes me feel rather foolish. Why? Because all it did was to reinforce my current lack of vested interest in the world: I sit alone in my room watching on TV as the naked, gay guy wins the money; his winning makes people watch, which allows for the soap, and cars and the beer to be sold; I buy that crap from the local Megastore which is owned by some guy who lives far, far away from the little pasture I do not have anymore and never will again, because everyone knows that farmers can’t make a living any more. Why did that happen? Because the big business people and the governments had a vested interest in controlling and distorting market prices which needed to brought more in line with what was wanted in an economy that was run by electronics and plastic rather than on food, which in turn wrecked my farm and put all of us in the family to work for the Megastore for $7.00 an hour, removing in the process our vested interest n the town.

“It ain’t our town anymore; it ain’t our land and it ain’t our town because we just ain’t got a say in what happens here anymore.”

Oh, life goes on… We fill the gap somehow. We preach competition now. I guess what this in general means is that you are supposed to look for someone to race with as a means to justify your life. We compete for everything now whether it matters or not. We like the “juice” of the game. We men even apply this to the “acquisition” of feminine companionship- as do the women in their acquisition (and dismissal) of us. Instead of actually doing the job of living, we decided that it was really all just a game all along.

(Speaking of “Juice” just made me think of OJ Simpson. Remember him. That’s a connection. He was the juice, right? I guess it also makes a connection to “trophy wives…”)

So what can we do? Well, when we feel bad, I guess a few hits off a joint helps. We do that to feel connected. Try this joint: You buy a bag from a local connection, this connection knows the local dealer who bought his stock from his guy at the docks who let the boat in from Honduras; the money from the sale at the docks went back to Honduras to a guy who works directly for a really rich guy who controls a lot of land there, some of which he now dedicates to the crop- This rich guy unfortunately had a problem with another young man, this particular young man not affiliated directly with the rich guy’s gang, but who himself attempted to sell some pot to a friend one Friday night both because the friend wanted it and because the unaffiliated young man needed the money to help pay for his medical school education, something the government no longer has the money for due to economic problems directly related to the drug trade. The local police, their own connection to the money from the rich land owner’s drug trade obvious to all, arrested the young man one night, took him out onto one of the land owner’s fields and shot him, ostensibly while trying to escape. I feel this story because this young man happened to be a friend, perhaps better described as a son, to a friend and supporter of myself who lives in Honduras during the winters. My friend had given money to this young man for his medical education and to his family and had made investments for that family’s future. He had done this, I suppose out of his own feelings of connectedness to the young man and his family. Or to the world in general.

That’s called the “ripple effect”. And if reading that hurt a little, it did because of your connection to me due to your reading this page, or to your actually having a heart in the first place.

And in the end, if you even get this or if you yourself feel bad about your own life or that you feel that you are not a part of things, all I am saying is that the reason for your feeling this is that we have allowed that thing that is absolutely needed to motivate ourselves to really live to be taken from us. Vested interest. And because of it, we have allowed ourselves to be “homeless”. Or in other words, in spite of egos the size of mountains, we are actually nearly completely impotent insofar as our connection to the world is concerned. The game gets played over our heads and all there is to do is to go along with it or die or be poor or be labeled a loser or whatever… Whether you agree or not, whether you voted or not, whether you bare your breast at the Superbowl or not, in the end we are all just bricks in that same wall we made such a big deal about tearing down.

Tell me I am wrong.