I actually wrote this piece a week or so ago. I've debated whether or not to post it, but when I go back and read through it I find I am compelled to share. So for better or for worse:
They say you can feel the ghost of a severed limb or digit; that you'll try to scratch an itch that can't possibly exist. I feel that way sometimes with my lost time. I spend too many days staring at the offensively boring patterns on the side of my cubicle. I mourn the time lost that I feel I could put to better use if only someone would forget to lock my cell door one day.
No matter how busy we get at the office I can crank through my workload in no time flat and have so many dead hours of wishing I was somewhere else. During those onerous, bleak hours my body feels the resistance of pedals on some fantasy bike tour, the pull of gravity as I hike some daydream peak, the rush of a ghostly wind and the feel of a sun on my skin that must exist somewhere.
The sounds of nature I hear in my cell are the clickety-clack of keyboard keys, the mind-addling ring of phones, the blat of one particularly loud co-worker and the constant Taos hum of the HVAC. Sometimes I even get to listen to the call of the wild irate citizen over the cubicle walls. If I'm lucky, I can even feel the spittle flying from their lips on my face.
There are days I long to hear the fire alarm. But I digress.
So I sneak and read Ken Kifer. I click through Yehuda Moon strips. I compulsively check my blog feed. And I daydream about being someone who is not confined to a cubicle cell for making the wrong decisions earlier in life (perhaps even the very same day) and that someone is unfettered by this lifestyle simply characterized as the American Dream. The irony, huh? It's mostly still just a daydream.
There's too much world out there to be experienced for me to be content sitting in a box.
And so, like in my previous post, I steal bread from the mouth of decadence. Because of our extractive/exploitative economy I have the luxury of empty time. I don't have to work in the mud and dirt from before daylight until well after dark just to have food on my table. Conversely, the wealth of extraction and technology does not afford me the common sense freedom to manage my time as I see fit, and as works best for me and my needs, but instead, shackles me to a contrived schedule that prohibits the freedom of time for ample self-improvement.
I sneak and take time for myself where I can. I do it with guilt splashed on my heart, but a quiet, passive-aggressive rebellion driving my actions.
We tout this grand experiment of democracy and capitalism as being tantamount to—and the epitome of—civilization, but how many of us benefit from the fruits of our labors on a level commiserate with our worth as human beings? Civility is often a facade over something much less than civilization. And if humanity is so advanced, then why is there such a great disparity between the rich and poor of the world? Do we really believe that the poor are in such a state because they don't work hard enough, or are somehow more undeserving than the rest of us? Do we really believe that the rich are so noble and just and hard working that they somehow have earned more of the stored wealth of energy that was produced in the creation of the world than the rest of us? Or was it just because they got to it first?
My leftist articulations are actually far less about the environment or the economy, and focused more on social justice issues when I really start picking at the threads. Again (and again and again and again), I do not consider myself as being aligned with the Left or the Right, nor anywhere along the scale. I am truly apolitical in my personal ideology and philosophy.
I look to common sense to help me make decisions on who to vote for. When I was younger I voted rarely, and when I did I tended to vote to the Right. Then I stopped voting, but soon after was shamed back into participating in the sham of voting for the lesser of evils. Now I hardly have the stomach for making a choice.
My concern about social justice has little to do with racism, sexual orientation, illegal immigration, abortion, or other hot button issues. I really believe that the average global citizen is getting the shaft on an hourly basis, and, that until we do something to guarantee equal human rights for all the world, the more superficial issues are going to continue to divide us and keep us from crafting a world in which our heirs can live in true freedom and security.
Paint me how you will as I say this, but I think FDR's "second bill of rights" is key to our survival as a civil species. I will say, I would interpret and quantify much of what FDR said in his 1944 state of the union address in my own way, but I think the spirit holds true, and I think if we had listened to FDR in 1944 that some of the ails of the last half decade would not have been so dire or destructive.
You can call me "socialist." If you do then you are of a lazy mind, and most likely can be found crouching in fear hard to the Right and pointing fingers our of your dank, dark corner. I am not a practitioner or proponent of socialism. And so what if I were?
I quote Ferris Bueller: "Not that I condone fascism, or any -ism for that matter. -Ism's in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an -ism, he should believe in himself. I quote John Lennon, 'I don't believe in Beatles, I just believe in me.' Good point there. After all, he was the walrus. I could be the walrus. I'd still have to bum rides off people."
When I first saw that movie I still had to bum rides off people. I was young, but Ferris' opinion that -isms are not good has nestled itself in my mind all these years, and I still agree with Mr. Bueller...Bueller...Bueller.
I'm not a lazy person. But I am opposed to wasting my life energy on pretend work, contrived schedules, timetables, procedures and policies that do little to build up and much to bog down. It's not work that's the problem, but wasted energy. We waste so much of our lives being placeholders in a contrived economic pattern. If I show up for at least 40 hours to a mute-colored cubicle then I receive a certain number of numbers in a computer which I can reallocate to keep my electricity, water, internet and data plan going. But I did nothing directly to produce electricity, water, "internet" or "data." My food comes from the supermarket. I also exchange some numbers with that institution so my belly doesn't hurt. What do I really understand about the energy that goes into maintaining my own existence and where my share of the energy goes once I expend it?
Do we feel the severed limbs of cultural identity, self-worth, and self-sufficiency maddening us? FDR's vision was never realized. Is there an itch there that every new generation tries to scratch at? Is that, perhaps, what the Occupy movement is all about?
In Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, author Barbara Kingsolver remarks about being named as one of the 100 people who are screwing up America by Bernard Goldberg. On the website Philosophistry the reason is given as: "In an op-ed she re-tells how she reluctantly let her daughter wear red-white-and-blue after 9/11 because, 'the American flag stands for intimidation, censorship, violence, bigotry, sexism, homophobia . . . Who are we calling terrorists here?'" (I refuse to pay money for Goldberg's book for the sheer mean-spiritedness of the content)
I must confess, my own feelings after 9/11 went from a shocking burst of patriotism to a strong opposition to our country's reaction when I saw the news story where a soldier leaving for Iraq (at the beginning of the Second Gulf War) told his young son: "I'm going to go kill the man (Saddam Hussein) that blew up the World Trade Center."
I realized in that horribly confused and mixed up exchange that those in power in America are in thrall to the mindless entity of capitalism, and that American foreign policy is no more noble or altruistic than was the empire-building crusades of humanity's past.
Capitalism evolves into empire-building, and the only thing that endeavor accomplishes is the concentration of wealth and power into the reach of a few at the expense and loss of life energy of the masses. There is no true equity in capitalism. It is a dog-eat-dog philosophy that encourages supporters to lie and deceive others about its nature to convince its victims to go willingly to slaughter.
This must stop.
A childhood friend, and brother in faith, made the claim once that only through capitalism and Christianity can our country be saved. What astounded me by that affirmation was that even the most diehard atheist can quickly point out the clear and straightforward contradictions in my friend's statement. But why can't well-intentioned, intelligent, observant Christians do the same?
If my confession that I am a Christian rankles you, then perhaps you are cowering in a similar dank and dark corner as the Rightist pointing fingers back across the cracked dungeon floor of American politics. So what if I am a Christian? Throw out your stereotypes and help to start spanning the great chasm we've opened up in our national discourse. I don't have to sacrifice my beliefs on the altar of freedom and neither do you.
Freedom is, perhaps, one of those phantom limbs that keep itching us. We just know it's there, but when we reach to feel it there is a void that we can't explain. And like the recent amputee, we go through denial. No, my arm must still be there, I feel it! But it's gone, you see? NO! It can't be!
Another phantom limb of our itching carcass is nobility. Where are the men and women of honor in positions of authority? Why can't politicians strive first to be noble, honest, self-less in service of their constituents. Why must they lie, muckrake, and root about in the immoral mud of their corrupted mini-cultures? But they dress so fancy. They speak so eloquently. They're educated. They run big businesses and do so much in the name of human rights. You can't get into those positions without keeping a high level of dignity and incorruptibility. Right?
When I was younger and less articulate in my understanding of the workings of the world I often thought that in the United States there persists a great European mindset, and that beneath that thick veneer of White influence lay the tattered remnants of the Native American cultures. In my early twenties I discovered that I am part Cherokee, a mere 1/64th, but still able to trace my blood back to that lone full-blood Cherokee in my family tree with the anglicized moniker of Margaret Parsons.
At the time I desperately wanted to renounce my whiteness, but to be honest, it would take a lot of tanning lotion to erase the dilution of my European DNA. A lot. In time I learned that romanticizing the noble savage does little to dignify the legacy of those people. To claim their suffering as my own is almost as great a travesty as the destruction of their culture by my European ancestors.
Around the same time I discovered that one sliver of my genetic heritage I also read an article about a blue-eyed, fair skinned contractor who obtained $19 million in minority-favored subcontracts based on his being 1/64thCherokee.I've never seen a photo of the man, but I see myself often enough in the mirror. 1/64thof anything is hardly enough to bestow any kind of distinguishing physical attributes, much less any kind of minority need.
And so began the savaging of the noble romantic. I vowed I would never exploit my own mutt-ish heritage and ceased all forward motion in researching my own path to membership in the Cherokee nation. I would not be another European taking advantage of a native culture. The remaining 63/64ths of my genetic makeup is almost entirely European, from Scottish to French to who knows what else.
I won't romanticize the Native American communities that persist (despite the attempted genocide that framed the entrance of European influences into the Americas) and thereby in-dignify how they identify themselves today. It's not my place to try and paint a picture of how they see themselves and how they envision themselves into the future.
The average American pursuing the American Dream scratches at the itch of cultural identity. NASCAR does not count as culture, and McDonald's is not cuisine. We are a culture of assimilation and dilution.
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Give them to us, and we will make them just like us. We will make them twofold more the children of hellthan ourselves.
I find it laughable that one of the huge points of contention between our political poles is that of immigration. What are we but a nation descended from exploitative immigrants that attempted to (and in some respects succeeded) commit genocide on the natives of this continent?
There is only one question left to ask. In the absence of nobility, reason, compassion, community, realistic social expectations...who will scratch the itch of lost souls?