The Homogenization of America (EP.265)

The Homogenization of America tries to keep the cream from rising to the top.

Introduction

When I was young, the milkman would deliver his product in glass half gallon jugs, left by the backdoor in portable metal wire carriers that would hold, if memory serves me, a total of 2 gallons. This was before homogenization, meaning that the cream would rise to the top, and the milk jug had to be shaken by hand each time you poured if you wanted it blended. Alternatively, if you wanted just cream, you could pour it off the top for cooking, coffee, etc. It greatly benefits all of us to praise anyone who reaches their full potential, and to encourage others to do the same, including those with more talent, more opportunities and more resources. A rising tide does indeed raise all boats. All of us need the cream to rise to the top. As we need everyone to be able to live up to their full potential.

Before the homogenization process, if left alone, the cream would always rise to the top. Today, we are homogenizing our society so that we are becoming more and more blended, more and more the same. And more and more average. 

That is the subject of today’s 10-minute episode. 

Continuing

One of my enduring memories growing up in Strafford Village on the “Main Line” West of Philadelphia, was getting the milk off the back step when freezing temperatures had caused the cream at the top of the milk jugs to push up the waxed cardboard cap, revealing about 2” of cream sticking out the top, in addition to what was still in the bottle at the top. I was fascinated by the mini cream tower, topped by the waxed cardboard cap–now detached from the bottle. I knew that freezing temperatures caused liquid to expand, and was charmed by seeing that physical law in action. BTW, this is where the term, “The cream always rises to the top.” originated.

Whole milk, unhomogenized, was all that you could buy. Today, milk is homogenized, and sold as 0% fat (skim), 1%, 2% and 4% (whole milk). You can get heavy cream, light cream, half and half–and maybe more variations. But the cream is not allowed to rise to the top. 

Today’s Key Point: Homogenizing milk intentionally keeps the cream from rising to the top in the container. The Homogenization of America intentionally tries to keep the cream from rising to the top in our society. 

In schools and increasingly in our thinking, we are focusing our efforts on “equality”, with many people, notably former President Barack Obama, calling inequality the defining challenge of our time. 

But we must be very careful about what we mean by inequality. Here are the options.

  • Legal inequality. There is none of that left. If you know of areas where there is inequality under the law, please jump into the comments section with your examples.
  • Inequality of opportunities. That will always be with us, and impossible, and wrong to change.
  • Inequality of results. See above.

Equality of results and freedom are incompatible. If people are free to succeed or fail on their own, to rise and fall on the basis of their talents and effort, we will never have equal results. If we insist on–demand as a matter of law–equality of results, we will have very few freedoms. Let’s hear another voice on this subject: “Human beings are born with different capacities; if they are free they are not equal. And if they are equal, they are not free.” -Aleksander Solzhenitsyn, Russian novelist, historian, and short story writer. Solzhenitsyn won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1970.

Now, let’s address inequality of opportunity. We have that in abundance. Some of it we must leave alone, and other parts we must correct. Using education as an example, we see there are inequalities that we should not try to fix, and inequalities that we must use all the tools at our disposal to correct –and do it now. If a family is able to afford to send their children to top private schools from pre-K through graduate school, well, good for them. My parents couldn’t, and neither can I. But that does not mean that either everyone should have that privilege, or that no one should. This is an example of where there is an uneven playing field, a lack of balance in opportunity, and we all need to recognize it and move on. 

Here is a correct-it-now imbalance in K-12 education. Aggressive school choice would fix that by providing needed competition. But it seems that many of the people who decry uneven playing fields are dedicated to preserving huge differences in the quality of schools available to families across America. Competition provided by allowing parents to have ready access to equally funded traditional public schools, charter schools and vouchers for private schools, would begin to improve our schools literally overnight. Competition makes for better sports, better computers and better cars–just for a start. So why is there any resistance at all to school competition, much less the stiff resistance we see on a regular basis? The pressure by the teachers unions and many politicians to keep increasing funding for public schools at the expense of the effective educational alternatives is part of the academic homogenization process, the process that makes being average the goal. Worse, it cheats the children in the many districts with failing schools. K-12 athletics nationally are structured so that everyone has an opportunity to do their best, and that the cream will come out on top. Why isn’t that how it works in academics?

So, Will, how much inequality of results can a society accept? I claim that is the wrong question. (“If you want better answers, ask better questions.” -Tony Robbins) The trap to avoid is comparing ourselves to others. We have all been taught not to compare ourselves to others, but to compare ourselves to where we were yesterday. That is eminently sound advice, and we should all follow it. As a nation, we are better off by every lifestyle measure, and at every level of income from below the poverty level to the multi-billionaires, than we were two years ago, ten years ago, 50 years ago, etc.

Yet there is an entire political movement that is focused on gaining power by emphasizing the comparison to others, the very thing that sound advice warns us against, then telling us that we are victims if we don’t have what “they” have. A person in America could have a comfortable and safe place to live, access to medical care, entertainment, decent food and clothes, and educational opportunities for themselves and their family, yet be told they are victims. Victims of what? Can we credibly be victims worthy of compensation simply because we don’t have what some others have? 

I’d like to close with a personal story that my wife tells about a family car trip she took as a young girl with her parents and two sisters. Her Mother wanted the three girls to share a candy bar, so she broke it into three pieces, and passed them to the back of the car where the girls sat. All three started complaining about how their piece was smaller, so Mom jumped into action. She took back the three pieces, aligned them so that one end was even with the other, and took a bite out of each of them to make them perfectly equal. Then the girls started complaining that Mom had taken some of each of their pieces of candy. Each one had less, but by golly they were all equal. 

Let’s close with the observation that we are all potentially cream, each of us in our own ways. And we as individuals and a society need to encourage all of those around us to live in a way that their cream rises to the top. 

Tell me what you believe. I and many others want to know. 

As always, whatever you do, do it in love. Without love, anything we do is empty.

Contact

As we get ready to wrap up, please do respond in the episodes with comments or questions about this episode or anything that comes to mind, or connect with me on Twitter, @willluden, Facebook, facebook.com/will.luden, and LinkedIn, www.linkedin.com/in/willluden/. And you can subscribe on your favorite device through Apple, Google, or Stitcher.

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Will Luden, coming to you from 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.

Will Luden
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