Archive for June, 2013

Hate the rich

Friday, June 28th, 2013

I’m hoping to become a small shopkeeper. There are millions of small shopkeepers in the United States, and I’ll feel a solidarity with all of them. It’ll be different than working for someone else, which is what most people do (while abhorring it). It’s a proud, complicated, and difficult declaration of personal independence. We’re aware it takes more effort than most things most people do. When we succeed, we don’t just make a living being our own boss, we create jobs and contribute to the national prosperity. We are what this country is all about.

So, it’s easy to feel we’re better than everybody else. We make our own way. We deserve as much as we can get. We admire other shopkeepers who get more than we do, because they’re better at our own game, and we’re going to try to get better, too. What we admire most of all are those billionaires, who are really, really smart. They’re so smart they should be president.

I’m noticing all this because there are people, now, publicly talking about the destruction of the American dream, and that couldn’t have happened without the complicity of shopkeepers like I hope to be. The Republican Party was an extraordinary instrument in the gutting of American opportunities. But it was just a tool. No less effective was the enjoyment, by middle-class ‘liberals,’ of inflating financial assets and property values, and their own version of feeling better than everyone else by building their private 401k plans and looking forward to something more than just ‘social security.’

Enthusiasm for your own prosperity, in whatever form that takes, is now an endorsement of the absolute power of a super elite. Because everything you consume and produce is controlled by the giant machines operated by the happy cliques in the ownership club, and anything that makes money, for anybody, makes it mostly for them.

This is not historically unusual, nor is the consolidation particularly acute (remember, a single Emperor used to own the whole kingdom). But this was America, and it used to be, when you made something for yourself, more of it was yours. And, contrary to the prevailing despair, the course can be reversed. Because it’s not about a System or an Economy or a set of scientific rules – it’s about a specific group of well-known people who are deliberately attacking you and your children. Try this: hate the rich. Just hate them. If everybody does it, things will change.

The Country Concept

Saturday, June 22nd, 2013

A high-brow politician might say, ‘we’re talking about what sort of country we want to be.’ I suspect most people don’t feel that engaged. It’s hard to believe a citizen can actually change something. But more: for most of us, surviving means just figuring out how things work and dealing with it. The claim we have some say in events isn’t just rhetorical nonsense – it’s really not the facts on our ground.

Still, let’s pay some attention to our wealthy legislators, with their heart-felt desires for the nation they choose. They have something to do with us. Policy does land on our doorsteps.

Our Big Divide – the twentieth century baggage that’s been unnecessary for decades but we’re likely to haul along for ages – is between ‘liberals’ and ‘conservatives.’ I think this is primarily a clash over faith in human nature. It sounds simple, but there is broad variation in the arguments and quite a range of topics. It feels like since, after all, it’s about distinctions in our natures, it raises instinctive hatreds we don’t understand and can’t articulate in any event. So a lot of these guys at the Capitol are just pretending to be about Country when they’re hopelessly about nothing but being Primate.

One divide seems clear enough: Republicans genuinely believe fear and suffering are the only motivators for good behavior. Their view holds, simply: we are all sluggards and worse; except for the threat of starvation we will happily sleep in our own stink and beg for handouts from, of course, Republicans.

Democrats, generally, see the jungle as a rough place to live. They agree people are more or less helpless, but they don’t view us as evil, and some of us are even their friends. So, the thinking goes, whatever we’ve managed to put together – together – we probably ought to share.

Terrifying

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

“I think it’s important to recognize that you can’t have 100 percent security and also then have 100 percent privacy…” – Barak Obama

This is his single best expression yet of our president’s failure. It’s beautiful, because it explains the necessity of terminating your Constitutional liberties by invoking the presumed imperative of your ‘one hundred percent security.’ Of course you’re willing to sacrifice the founding principles of your country for ‘one hundred percent security’ – aren’t you?

This is a man who has become a mouthpiece; a man who, as predicted by his wife before his election, has become so far removed from his country, by his second term, he’s no longer aware of what his country is. If you want 100 percent security from car crashes, you not only don’t move around in automobiles, you can’t approach a road. If you want 100 percent security from, well, you get the point.

He follows this linguistic fraud with an assertion that ‘no one is listening to your phone calls.’ We impeached Bill Clinton because he egregiously lied about screwing an aide. Good people are applauding Barak Obama as he egregiously lies about screwing an entire nation. If he believes himself, he’s an idiot. If he doesn’t, he’s a traitor.

I can, surprisingly, understand his position. He’s been out of the sun for years, surrounded by frightening personalities posing frightening scenarios; telling him, over and over, what he must do, or else. It takes real strength of character to withstand that. It takes a real addiction to liberty. It takes a real love for your country.

I believe Mr. Obama was a good man. Once.

Better life

Sunday, June 9th, 2013

I couldn’t help noticing the US has dropped to fourteenth on the OECD’s Better Life Index, well behind Mexico.  Ironic, I thought, since shops all around are marketing hundreds of ways to ‘fulfill myself,’ ‘realize my dreams,’ and ‘reach my full potential.’ The numbers proclaim this isn’t happening.

I’m inclined to the obvious response: if the US is slipping on an index, that index isn’t measuring the right thing. Clearly Mexico’s tradition of suffering must inspire a popular delusion of self-contentment. Should we be in their spot, we’d be miserable. And so, in fact, must they be. We are, after all, the United States – Best Country in the World.

But I’m troubled by the data. They suggest there’s more to life than what we’re offering ourselves. More, they hint we know it. Dissatisfaction amidst all our prosperity and self-realization makes me uncomfortable.

Back in college, people made a lot of noise about ‘alienation,’ a condition that finds you unhappy because what you’re doing isn’t meaningfully connected to who you are. Like getting paid a lot for a job you hate; knowing you desperately want to get out of the office – you’d rather be running a sandwich shop.

There’s tremendous urgency in our lives now, since we’re at constant war with an invisible enemy. When it looks like we’ve spotted it across our borders, some poor country dominates our attention and fills our headlines. But where, today, are Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Venezuela … Afghanistan?

Meanwhile we know, all of us, the earth is warming beneath our feet. We know we chose, because it’s the profitable thing to do, to keep right on heating it up. Now, we think, ‘we failed to stop it; we’re going to have to kick ass to stay ahead while it happens.’

These aren’t choices we would have made for ourselves. We’re not reporting a whole lot of satisfaction with them.