All Rights Reserved © 2003 Thomas W. Day
Six years ago, when I first decided that I needed to understand enough HTML to put together the Rat's Eye View so that I could blow off some political, social, business, and sports talk steam, I didn't have a goal in mind for this website. It's purpose was exactly what I advertised it as, a place for me to rant. No financial objectives, no hopeful political revolution, no magic bullet for the billions of flaws in American business or the god-awful excuse that passes for business education, and no idea how to remove professional sports from the center focus of our failed Fifth Estate. I just wanted to be able to speak my mind and see it somewhere other than on my a piece of paper puking from my own printer. With a lofty goal like that in mind, how could I fail?
During the days when most of the Rat Rants were written, I was confined in an eight-by-six cubicle, employed, sequentially, by two of the most cold blooded organizations that I'd ever imagined could exist. Both jobs involved supporting medical devices, no less. After a lifetime of aiming myself at a misshapen career building music equipment, recording music, playing music, riding and writing about motorcycles, and contemplating my growing stomach, I was making more money than I'd ever expected doing practically nothing. Especially, doing nothing worthwhile, honorable, memorable, or respectable. Hence, the Rat was born.
One of those two miserable companies was pretty much ripped apart from within. Apparently, it was doing so much patient damage that even the employees had enough and the company began to sprout whistle blowing leaks as quickly as a new Republican administration. For the same reasons, too. The FDA closed the doors and I, being slow on the uptake and particularly ignorant, made the awful decision to try yet another medical company in the inane hope that it wasn't medicine that contaminated companies but the usual crappy executives.
Wrong again. The second company was such a carbon copy of the first that I couldn't tell one SNAFU-system from the other without prescriptions lenses. A little examination of the industry finally taught me that the corruption starts at the core of the business -- with overpaid, arrogant, not particularly skilled doctors -- and extends all the way through the industry's suppliers to the money source, insurance companies and Medicare. For a decade, medicine made a run at replacing the Military-Industrial Complex as the nation's worst national security threat, but our current Commander-in-Thief has sacrificed the economy so they can both coexist profitably.
The Rat became my sole line of personal ethics defense and you, my tiny group of readers, were my support group. To be honest and fair, Old age and avarice had a grip on me, too. For the first time, I began to worry about retirement, security, and a collection of concepts that I have damn little control of in the best of times. Trapped in a flawed logic loop, the only time I allowed myself to peek out of the closet was in the Rat Rants.
But I turned out not to be dead yet and I got better. But not before getting a whole lot worse in early 2001.
Since then, either the cubicle quit me or I quit it. I make a living, barely, as a freelance recording engineer and maintenance tech, a part-time music school instructor, and a motorcycle safety instructor for the State of Minnesota. Like about 40% of the country, I'm "under-employed," uninsured, and bouncing around slightly above the poverty line. Unlike 90-some-percent of working Americans, I love my work and look forward to every day. Every moment of every day.
I set my own schedule. When I get pissed at "management," I tell them to screw off and don't work for that particular organization again. I'm putting in more hours than I ever did as an employee, making a small fraction of my old "hourly wage," and haven't taken off more than a day in a row in almost two years. I feel younger, stronger, faster, leaner, and more adaptable than I have since . . . ever. I might be broke tomorrow, but today I'm alive.
Here's the point of all this, though. For several years, I poured my heart into writing the Rat Rants, trying to link and publicize the website, and hoping to put some light on the cesspool that our country and culture appears to be circling. Obviously, from the lack of hits the site has taken in its history, I couldn't hit a barn with a baseball bat. I've enjoyed the notes I've received from you, my friends, but pretending that this is a regular, occasionally noticed "opinion column" is a fantasy I can't maintain. Wanting to be a writer and a critic and actually being one are not the same thing.
I write because if I don't, I implode. But I don't appear to have a real author's drive to be read. It's the same for my music, I do it for myself and if someone else enjoys it I'm amazed and suspect that person's musical taste may be somewhat deranged.
On my dinky NEC laptop, alone, I've piled up almost 60 unpublished Rats and I hack at them every week to see if I can turn them into something that makes sense. Usually, I can't. I find myself less and less able to make sense of our culture. The ones that make the most sense are, to be honest, more profane than I'd like. When I write my best stuff, I'm unrestrained from calling a turd a "turd." The goal and intent of the Rat Rants was to entertain and inform, not to offend.
That, my friends, is not getting the job done. Business and politics in 2003 are so entwined that there is no inoffensive way to describe their relationship. If I want to keep writing about them, I have to tell it the way I see it.
Fortunately for me, I don't have to deal with it nearly as much as some of you. I can hang out with musicians and motorcyclists and pretend that we are still a democracy and that I'm not living in the world's all time "have and have-not" disaster zone. Like most Americans, I can close my eyes and let my preoccupations wash away the pain.
Because of all this stuff, I'm going to close the Yahoo Rat's Eye group, let my website name expire this next year, and get on with the other bits of life. I expect keep my AT&T Rat's Eye page alive and I hope all of you will stay in contact. Check in, occasionally, if you have some time to waste, and see what I've been holding back. The Rat isn't gone altogether, I'm just not paying InsaneDomains.com to be here.
Take care of yourselves and try not to take the world as seriously as it warrants. If there is a god out there, she has a seriously warped sense of humor. We might as well laugh along with the joke. It's mostly on us.