I’m not sure where to start.


The last few years have been enlightening.  I struggle to say the years before were not, but since returning to school and beginning some intellectual pursuits, I have started to think much, much deeper on things than I ever had previously.  I’ve also had the opportunity to read, to study, to research, to talk.  What I have continued to learn has given me both confidence and genuine worry.  This is the nature of today’s report.


For those of you that have been visiting Pioneer Outdoors, I welcome you.  This will be the last blog that’s more-or-less written/spoken about specifically on that site.  Future conversations will take place on a new website, which I’ll detail below.  As for PioneerOutdoors.com, I have decided to renew the license on the space for at least another two years so it isn’t going anywhere if you were still accessing the blogs or any of our learning resources.  That said, a rebranding has been necessary and even then I struggle to use the term “rebranding.”


So with that little introduction, let’s get to the meat of why I’m doing this report and why I’m doing it now.  I won’t rehash everything from the last podcast where I pretty much outlined the problem with the Pioneer Outdoors site and my own interests.  If you’re interested, take a look at the last post.  In short, my own interests and directions have diversified considerably since I launched Pioneer Outdoors and as such I am struggling to justify content that is relegated to so strictly to one category.  I mean, I tried to branch that out and make it relevant to the site but with so few return visitors it just wasn’t worth the stretch.  So I’m canning it, sort of.  I still plan to podcast and the site does provide web hosting that I’m not really willing to migrate just yet so I’ll slowly but surely introduce things like a logo and more fluid connections between the two sites, but for now it’ll just be a simple blog page while I continue to work out just what I want to do going forward. 


So that first line… I’m not sure where to start?  This is the part I’m not sure where to start with.  An intro about site maintenance I can handle. 


My interest in politics has been somewhat superficial.  I would look up a candidate, find out what their stances are on “core issues” and make a reasoned decision based on that.  It’s incredibly short-sighted and irresponsible as a citizen but I’d be willing to bet that it’s far more than the average American voter.  Even still, that’s not going to solve a problem – a problem I think I am correct in deeming the only problem worth talking about on the public stage.  More on that in a second.


The range of issues affecting the American voter are myriad and we always seem to disagree on which ones are important.  Job growth, systemic racism, political correctness, human rights, taxes, health care – we get our figurative panties twisted over these and other subjects.  I happen to think – and this is awfully difficult to admit being a liberal myself – that the dissension is almost entirely the fault of the Democratic party but this will not be an essay dissecting that problem.  It will be an essay on why none of the problems they are talking about (see most of the list two sentences ago) are worth discussing nationally.


Now I feel I have to qualify that sentence – because the very people I need to reach are the ones that would vehemently disagree with that last statement.  They are issues that need discussing.  They are not issues that should be discussed nationally and I’ll explain with a short analogy below.  Well, two, if you count the one I’m going to use to bring it closer to the core.  It’s also worth qualifying the first analogy as NOT a commentary on global warming – before you even try to go there.


If you are running a cruise ship and amidst all of the bullet points that are discussed at the staff meeting each morning the head engineer announces that the ship is cruising roughly 1cm lower each day and is likely slowly sinking, there are other issues that suddenly become less pressing.  If the kitchen is requesting more time to prepare food because customers are complaining that the silverware isn’t as clean as it should be, that’s on the backburner.  When I would run meetings with my staff (in a sporting goods store), the understanding was that we would discuss global issues.  If two people had a disagreement or if someone had a personal issue to follow up on with me (“hey, I need to talk about a vacation request”), I would quickly say “speak with me after the meeting.”  If the head engineer says “I’m pretty sure the ship is sinking and we need to find out why,” this is a global issue that all of us need to be aware of and educated on to fix the problem.  No one cares if the silverware is impeccably shiny before it floats hither and yon in the Pacific Ocean.


The issue I’m discussing involves the decline of the middle class in the United States.  I’m going to avoid going into depth for this report and will instead offer a venture into that void in a separate issue so people who are interested can dive in with me and people who are not can cut to the chase.  This is cutting to the chase.  Americans have heard buzzwords related to things like “trade deficit” and “corporate tax loophole” without actually understanding what any of them are.  That’s what the separate report will go into.  But suffice it to say, these are direct problems and the world as you know it is sinking.  Retirement plans, social security, prevailing wages – each and every one of these are major issues that we will have to square with and we aren’t been talking about.  It’s as if the chief engineer was about to say something and instead said “I have a private matter to discuss with you,” and that private matter is “everyone but the crew will likely be swimming in about 4 days.”


Now let’s pull back to why this issue is so devastating.  While most of the above issues are American Republican Party strategies, the middle class has long depended on the Democratic Party to keep these strategies and check and to make issues of them whenever they came up.  There are several ways they haven’t and I have something extremely scary to tell you – a very large amount of Republican voters already knew this.  They have been railing on issues like offshoring (closing of American factories to be moved predominantly to Mexico or China with cheaper labor and goods sent back to the US duty free) for a very long time.  When it came to a head once again in our current political discourse (heard of the TPP?  Trans-Pacific Partnership?), the Democrats needed to make it priority number one and to highlight to the average American voter why it was a direct assault (following a long line of assaults) on the middle class.  What did they hear?  Enter analogy number two.


Seated at a dinner table is a family of five.  The table is set very nicely with a beautiful mirrored centerpiece – it is clear they are not lavishly rich but live in relative comfort.  The father, an information technology engineer, begins telling his family a story about work that day.  His boss said the most inappropriate thing!  After he had laid off the entire department he was on the phone with someone and was visibly frustrated.  As the father was cleaning out his desk he started yelling racial slurs into the phone at someone he now guessed was Hispanic.  The mother, visibly upset, asks him if he said anything to the man for using such foul language.


If you’re like me, you immediately grappled with the fact that this dad lost his job – but no one is talking about it as if it matters.  Before you claim that he’s in a service field with plenty of job prospects, I will ask you to do some research.  Those prospects are fantastic – if you live in India.


If the father lost his job because it was sent overseas, the very real conversation that should be happening at that table is how this family is going to keep it’s house, the couple is going to keep its retirement savings, and the kids are going to be able to afford higher education.  That we may be the first generation to not receive any sort of retirement is on our horizon and it’s only the tip of a corporate iceberg.


You will forgive me for finding all other issues irrelevant because they frankly are when given in this context.  I will be quite honest with you – the most I learn and research the bleaker things seem to feel.  This report will not offer any sort of recommendation for things to come or a clear strategy.  I don’t actually have one or at least not one I’m comfortable putting in a forum such as this which is largely closed to debate.  My outlook is much less hopeful for those of us that have grown accustomed to a certain lifestyle.


I unfortunately have to close this up but believe me when I say I can continue on this topic for a very long time and frankly long for the chance to talk about it with people who are willing to acknowledge the problems, seek out other problems, and think optimistically about options.  I think it’s the only conversation worth having and all others are either petty or blatant attempts to make us avoid this one that matters.


And besides, I have to talk about the new site and why I chose the name and direction for it.  While the name itself may become prophetic, I can assure you it was not chosen for precisely that reason but in retrospect it may have held some deep inner longing I harbored in the recesses of my brain.  I began to dabble in meditation a few years ago and will likely continue to do so in the weeks and months coming, but it has a strong bearing on the name, as does my love for characters that are known to travel and provide wise counsel and excellent company.


I’ve started something I’m calling “The Wandering Group” and it’s name is intentionally un-sexy and I think I actually followed some vague Chinese naming convention when I concocted it.  Either way, it is precisely as it sounds.  While my own interests can be pretty well analogized with it, I think it has enormous potential.  I have grand plans if it ever becomes something popular, but for now it’ll just be a blog – nice and simple.  The site, by the way, is thewanderinggroup.com.  I will continue to post new reports on both the Pioneer Outdoors site and the new page and it’ll still show up on the Pioneer Outdoors podcast feed until I design a new logo for the new page.  Don’t hold your breath, I think the name indicates how committed I am to nailing anything down.  I plan on taking my time with this one.


I look forward to sharing conversation with you.