Reality:| What a Concept

     It was 28 below zero the other day. It felt good to pull on a clean pair of blue jeans in the cold dark when I got up a few minutes before 3 a.m. As I felt around in the closet for my green shirt and Chicago Bears hoodie, I knew it would be good day. Not because it was 28 below zero, and not because I got up at 3 a.m. I knew it would be good because I had the sense to appreciate the feeling of clean blue jeans.
     Such are the pleasures to which we are reduced as the nation’s economy crumbles under our feet, over our heads, all around us. But it’s not really a reduction. It’s how things are. It’s far better than how things are for most of the world today – better than they ever were for most of the world throughout history.
     A friend I’ll call Brian, a reporter who works for a National Public Radio affiliate, expects that everyone at his station is about to get a 10% pay cut.
     “What can you do?” he said. “It’s better than having no job at all.”
     Brian doesn’t make much money. He’s worked at the station for more than 10 years but his daughter who just graduated from college makes more money than he does. Like most reporters, Brian is not one to let an opportunity for a good gripe go by. But he has the right attitude.
     My mom grew up during the Great Depression. After I graduated from college, in 1973, and worked a few years as a musician, then as a schoolteacher, then as a newspaper reporter, she told me that my generation had a different idea about work than hers did.
     “We didn’t expect to get personal satisfaction from a job,” she said. “A job was a job. If you were lucky enough to have one you held onto it. If you wanted personal satisfaction, you got it from your family or from a hobby. You had a job so you could pay the rent, buy food and clothes and raise your kids.”
     She said she preferred my generation’s approach to our jobs. She wished her generation had had the chance. My generation’s attitude didn’t start to become widespread until the 1960s, she said.
     We’re unlearning it.
     I’m not complaining.
     I’m not complaining because we deserve the economic catastrophe that is unraveling around us, ruining lives, destroying old people’s savings, costing people their homes, their jobs, driving onetime homeowners and their children to homeless shelters, to sleep on the streets.
     We created this. We allowed a coterie of crooks to rob us blind for years in broad daylight. We were not fooled by the lies our so-called leaders told us, from Ronald Reagan through George W. Bush – we asked them to lie to us; we begged them to do it. And they obliged.
     The nationwide housing disaster is simply a return to reality. Houses are worth about what they’re worth now; they’re no longer worth what some crook tells us they are, or what we’d like them to be.
     There are no manufacturing jobs left in our country because we believed the chiseling corporations and their slimy bosses and their hired political help who told us that unions are greedy and corrupt, that there’s nothing wrong with working for minimum wage, that workers who ask for a pay raise will ruin the economy and hurt the country.
     We believed that paper-shuffling crooks who hustle stocks and houses should be paid astronomical amounts of money – fifty times more than schoolteachers, hundreds of times more than people who care for children and old people.
     And we believed that war brings freedom – that millions of people around the world actually want us to make war, that they look to us for it, and are grateful for it.
     We have been acting this way for an entire generation.
     What did we expect?

%d bloggers like this: