Based on the issue of The Unity Community originally published on 19 May 2018 (my 75th birthday).
Since this is a milestone of sorts, I decided to dedicate this issue to my reflections on having spent 3/4 of a century on this rock.
Beginning in the Middle of WWII
My parents told me that their intention, when they married in May 1941, was to buy a sailboat after the war and live on it. (A comment here: Can you imagine, in our present age of wars that never end, deciding what to do “after the war”?). They planned to sail the globe at will, unencumbered with children. They definitely scheduled their lives around the war. My father was a pretty high official in the War Department and felt obligated to provide whatever assistance his position entailed until the end of the war. As a “Top-Secret” clearance holder he never, even years later, talked about his duties there.
Well, after the Pearl Harbor fiasco (I suppose that’s what added the second “W” to what we now know as WWII!), they decided that raising a family might work out better as a lifestyle, since it now appeared they’d be stuck in Washington for at least a few more years. Perhaps my father’s age played into this decision. He was 17 years my mother’s senior, and age 46 in 1943 when I was born, the first of 3 and the beginning of his second family.
Growing up in the ’40’s, ’50’s, and ’60’s
Immediately after the war, we moved from Washington DC to rural northern PA. Had we stayed in Washington, I’m sure much of what follows would be very different. My parents knew that and planned this change wisely.
So what was it like growing up in what many hail as the high point of American societal and cultural development? Here are a few of my observations of that high time:
- One-room schools – in my first 8 grades I was in a total of only 3 rooms. There was no kindergarten. Hillsdale College‘s Academy (K-12) continues to use this arrangement today, at least in the primary grades, with great success.
- Many cohesive families – mother, father, kids – all together at mealtimes.
- Guns proudly displayed in many homes – kids taught to handle them responsibly (mostly – a school friend died in a gun mishandling accident) – the first day of deer season was a school holiday!
- Much personal liberty – do what you want, as long as you don’t interfere with others’ rights. (Of course, you could be subject to your neighbors’ very explicit disapproval!). Little interference from “Big Brother”.
- Birth of the Corvette, Thunderbird, Mustang, GTO and other American automotive icons (along with the “flop” of the Edsel, a laughingstock)
- Our first telephone – on an 8-party line!
- No TV until after I started college – I count that a plus (now – not so much then!
- Wonderful Christmases with family friends in Long Island and NYC.
And some disturbing harbingers of what was to come:
- The Korean War, and the beginning of the Viet Nam War – not our first, but among the most widely recognized, of our early interferences in others’ affairs.
- Assassination of JFK – apparently because he defied the CIA.
- LBJ’s “Great Society”…including, among others, support (read: incentive) for unwed mothers!
- The advent of consolidated schools – the beginning of the removal of parents’ involvement in their kids’ education.
- Early influx of German, Japanese, and other “foreign cars”. They figured out how to do what Detroit did… more and better! This led the demise of American industrial domination.
- Watching the auto accident that killed my father – had little to do with what was to come in the world, but it certainly had a big impact on a 17-year-old, and on our family life!
My “Career” Years – 1968 – 2010
My professional career started with a short and undignified stint as a high school math teacher – a pursuit which I hated and felt very frustrated with. I vowed after that never again to work at a job I hated – I’ve succeeded in that! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the rest of my working life – well, maybe there were a few “rough spots” – what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? I presided over a spectacular business failure (financially) and learned a huge amount in the process about myself and business.
During these “career” years, I evolved from disdaining people in favor of machines to recognizing people as the most fascinating and productive resources in business. In 1991, I came to the realization of my professional focus – bringing people together to work effectively in teams. That’s been my central theme ever since that pivotal moment. There’s much more on that story on my website.
A quick summary of these years is: two periods in the “upstream” (exploration and production) petroleum world (one spectacularly successful, the other OK), two in the aviation business (one successful, the other successful educationally, not so much financially) and one in real estate (good for education, OK financially). I’m calling the end of this period my retirement in 2010 from Wiggins Airways where I was Chief Pilot. At that point, I decided to put my experience with team-building to work as a business coach.
During these 40+ years, we saw increasing indications that some of the trends I mentioned in my discussion of my “growing-up” years were predictably leading to trouble. Perhaps the most economically damaging event, which has been pretty much ignored by politically correct historians and economists, was the 1971 abandonment of what was left of the U.S. dollar gold standard. These trends ultimately led me to leave the U.S. (except for a few weeks’ visit each year with family and friends). I explain more further on.
Personally, I married, sired a son, adopted a daughter (née my niece – more on that in a minute), and divorced. The kids, and now two grandchildren, have been a constant delight. The divorce was painful, but the relationships of each of us parents with our kids have survived and thrived, and we’ve found peace with each other.
My sister died in a head-on crash in 1976, which left her 5-year-old daughter to be adopted by my wife and me. One of the most awful moments of my life was waking up to my brother’s call telling me of that accident – the full impact of the news took hours, maybe days, to assimilate.
My Self-Employment Years – 2010 – ??
From 2010 – 2016, I regularly visited La Estancia de Cafayate, a high quality resort development in northwest Argentina. In 2015 I decided to move here and completed that plan in October ’16, mostly as a (partial) escape from what I viewed as excessive and oppressive interference and “prying” into personal life from the various government agencies in the U. S. Some of the trappings of that intrusion are:
- More and more taxation of everything, most egregiously income (there’s sound philosophical basis for the prohibition of an income tax in the original U. S. Constitution.)
- The increasing use of those tax revenues for trouble-making all over the world in places where we have nothing to defend (In my estimation, defense is the only legitimate activity for the military. Oil is a commercial commodity – honest people buy and sell it in commerce – they don’t wrest it from others by force), “wars” on drugs, poverty, etc. (wars usually lead to more, not less, of what they purport to reduce), and other state mischief.
- Increasingly militarized and much larger police forces – this can only lead to more and more oppression.
- Increasing mandates or restrictions on speech, guns, fuel economy, interest rates, auto safety devices, wages, water consumption by bath fixtures, etc., etc.
- The growth of institutionally sanctioned – in some cases mandated – “political correctness” in speech, behavior, etc.
The Argentine government is capable of every bit as much mischief (except they have very little military capability) as any other government. The beauty of life in the northwest “outback” is that 1000 miles from Buenos Aires, we experience little interference from the interferers. They focus their attention on Buenos Aires and its environs, where 40% of the Argentine people live.
I’ve planned a birthday party which I expect to be enjoying by the time you’re reading this. An indication of the quality of life here is that I invited over 40 people to this quite intimate party (there’d have been quite a few more if they were here – I didn’t invite people I knew weren’t here). Anywhere else I’ve lived, I’m pretty sure the list of people I considered this close would have been half that. I count relationships as the most important aspect of life (I’ve written about that, here and here), so that speaks well for life here. Of course I also enjoy the weather, the scenery, the golf and many other life enrichments.
Professionally, my writing business, which I took up upon my move to Argentina (I love to write, it fits the lifestyle here very well, and my clients care not where or when I do my writing) is beginning to bear fruit. As long as I can draw breath and think straight (I hope I know if and when I can’t think straight!) I aim to continue working – the couple of periods in my life when I idled for a time were not much to my liking.