#156 Thinking Diversely (2006)

All Rights Reserved © 2006 Thomas W. Day

I have a friend who always challenges my thought process.  We'll call him "Scott," because that is his name.  I have enough trouble keeping track of the necessary truth without having to generate unnecessary fiction.  Scott and I often have wide-ranging discussions, arguments, and explorations that take me to places I'm not inclined to travel.  A few weeks ago, we got into a wrangle about immigration, diversity, and democracy.  Part of that was inspired by my thoughts about John Polkinghorne's goofy take on quantum physics and metaphysics, part was inspired by my cultural bias against anything that isn't democratic and "progressive."  As usual, we ended up leaving the conversation with an outrageous number of things to consider and a ridiculous collection of new ideas to assimilate.  At least I did.  Scott's mileage probably varies.

Somehow, our conversation about cultures, politics, and tolerance turned into something anthropological for me.  While a giant wad of folks on this planet have devolved into a fantasyland of metaphysics, I don't swing that way.  All evidence (fossils are evidence, magical myths are not) points to evolution being the sole factor in the development of life and, currently, the existence of humanity on earth.   A few tens of thousands of years ago, anthropologists speculate that there were likely a variety of human prototypes (herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores, big, little, and middle-sized humanoids, and so on).  Ecological catastrophes, disease, and competition reduced the variety to what we are today.  There is still a fair amount of specialized human diversity, but we're pretty much all the same species; able to freely interbreed, digest the same food, and be fooled by the same politicians and weight-loss scams. 

The modern economic model claims that, with minimal evidence, capitalism and mild forms of democracy are "the best" social systems.  The 20th Century, the "American Century," provided a moderately convincing argument for that claim, but one hundred years is not a significant test in evolutionary time.  Even compared to the standard set by the Roman Empire,  100 years is insignificant.  You could expand the argument, or limit it, by claiming that democracy and capitalism were not the dominate survival trait of the last five hundred years.  In that period, you could make a pretty convincing argument that being European, or even being "white," was the dominant trait of dominance and, therefore, survival.  Five hundred years out of fifty-thousand is still pretty insignificant.  Our sun is predicted to stay relatively stable for at least a few million more years, so even making a superiority claim for the last two or five thousand years isn't particularly impressive.  So, in this conversation I'm not thinking about the next fiscal quarter, the next election, or even the next generation, but the next 1,000, 10,000, or even 1,000,000 years of human existence

A variety of dinosaurs (remember the fossils?) roamed the earth for for as many as one-hundred-and-fifty million freaking years, so humanity's total fifty-thousand year run is pretty insignificant.  At our current rate of degeneration, we'll be lucky to even leave recoverable remains that will establish our presence.  So far, we've populated the earth for a blink of the geological eye. 

Diversity was the dinosaurs' secret to longevity and, if we're going to have a secret to extend our existence, we're going to need that same tool. Hence, my personal discovery from the conversation with Scott.  Diversity, not globalization, might be the key to humanity's survival.  

Not only does it make us (the United States) enemies when we try to pervert other countries' social systems to resemble ours, but it may be endangering the survival of the species.  Unless you're hearing voices telling you otherwise, it ought to be obvious that the United States social system is in decline and that our ravenous appetite for the world's resources is harmful to the planet, living things, and to the long term survival of the species of animal that we are.  If you are hearing inner voices to the contrary, you're crazy and should seek psychological counseling and medication. 

Technical skills may not be the panacea to all social, environmental, and disease tribulations.  It's possible, even likely, that jamming large populations into small geographic areas, feeding that population from the same trough and well, and diluting the gene pool into one "melting pot" is a formula for species disaster.  Even the dumbest corporate executive should know that developing and spreading "suicide seeds" is not a survival tactic, but corporate executives are drifting in the sands at the bottom of our breeding pool and they are unlikely to have the foresight to consider business plans longer than their next bonus payout.  In many ways, technology is working as hard to end humanity as it is to enhance corporate profits.

I suspect that every culture has some survival value.  Even the ones that we westerners hate, pity, and/or misunderstand probably have a survival value.  "Probably" is the key word here.  Unless you have some insight into what the next catastrophe will be, your guess as to which culture will survive is as bad as mine.  Maybe believing in one of our many fantastic religions will put a group on exactly the right mountain top at the right time to avoid the bird flu or the monster asteroid? Maybe militant atheism will keep that group from marching off a cliff with the majority of human lemmings.  Maybe technology and science will finally be the savior that, so far, it hasn't been for the majority of humans on earth.  And on and on the scenarios go without any of us knowing which one is the "right" one to save the species. 

So, if every culture, every language, every political system, every race, and every bad habit may be a saving grace, what does this do for the United States at this moment in time?  Something valuable, I hope. 

We have a culture in the United States, outside of our nutty ruling class and their insane tendencies toward monopoly and social inbreeding.  (England has mastered those skills, so there is no point in duplicating a dying class society.)  The United States has a culture of equality, justice, public education, technological and artistic and political creativity, non-secular government, and democracy.  There may be no other place on earth with these traits and we should treasure and nurture them.  That means we must decide how we want to develop these traits and how we want to refine our particular survival skills. 

In a rational world, that would mean that we'd stop trying to export our corporate world view, since it is antithetical to the ideals of this country, let alone the rest of the world.  We would leave the rest of humanity to develop their own survival tactics, interfering only when one of those tactics puts us at risk.  I don't mean when their defense of their natural resources inconveniences our ruling class or an international corporation's bottom line, I mean we should be concerned when they present an honest danger to our survival. 

It's also true that if you worship a god so devoutly that you want your government to "represent that god," there are already a world of nations ready to welcome your beliefs.  The United States should not be one of them.  We got where we are by avoiding the mix of religion and government and we should hold to that philosophy as if our species' life depends on it.  It might.

Immigration has been a key component of the success of this nation, too.  In the past, simply leaf blowing, coal mining, meat cutting, ditch digging immigration did the job, because those were middle-income, mid-tech jobs that attracted immigrants with skills and aspirations.  Today, the majority of our immigration seems to be attracting a subsistence, servant class and, again, I think there is no shortage of countries who have created a slave class to do the work their own citizens "won't do."   The United States has a different obligation to its ideals.

The United State's success came from the happy accident resulting from the belief that education is something due to every citizen.  The middle and lower classes provided the fuel for every substantial technological leap the United States has enjoyed.  For two centuries, whenever our ruling classes "took over" the country a massive depression quickly followed.  As in every other nation in the world, the inbred elites are incapable of providing anything but status quo.  Maybe the status quo will be the ingredient necessary for survival, but it might not be.  There is, again, no shortage of conservative cultures and there is only one of us, the United States.

May 2006


#155 Making Death Personal (2006)

All Rights Reserved © 2006 Thomas W. Day

This month death got personal.  On the scale of suffering that people experience, I admit my experience may be trivial.  My dog died.  I didn't lose a child, my wife, a sibling, a parent, or a dear friend.  Just a dog. 

I've suffered losses before, more substantial losses, but not more personal ones. 

When I was a kid, my mother died; after a year of suffering the failures of the American medical system that were typical of 1957.  Not long after that, my father's father, my grandfather, died.  During the Vietnam years, two close friends died in the rice paddies of Southeast Asia.  A decade later, a young dear friend died of massive heart failure, thanks to a short life of tobacco abuse and poor diet and genetics, less than a year after I'd moved to California.   My youngest daughter was nearly killed in a terrible car accident and my wife and I clung to each other for support for four awful, long days, until we had some assurance that she would survive and we could imagine our lives restarting again.  I've survived death and near death of those close to me and it was painful, heartbreaking, and bits of me left with those spirits.

I've hunted and killed animals.  I've witnessed strangers' deaths so first hand that they took their last breath within sight; once, within range of my touch.  Death isn't something I fear, particularly.  I'm not religious, superstitious, or inclined to believe that a painless death is a bad thing at the end of a well-lived life. 

My dog died within minutes of my coming home at the end of a work day.  He, Puck, had been sick for a few weeks, noticeably.  I don't think he suffered much, except for loss of mobility in his last couple of days of life.

Puck was a pound dog.  He came into our lives at a pet store, a few weeks after our first dog had been killed when she escaped our yard and found her way into traffic.  I had no intention of replacing her, but my wife somehow thought we needed to fill that hole in our lives with another life.  Puck looked like a wild dog, we have no idea what breeds he came from, but he was the gentlest of souls ever to grace the earth.  His only fault was that he loved children uncontrollably.  Any excuse, any tiny sound of children laughing, and Puck would find a way to escape his leash, his fenced yard, or just slip away when we weren't looking to find the source of child-sound and be loved by a kid.  Kids all loved him, too. 

Adults were sometimes afraid of his wild eyes, his huge teeth, and his giant grin, but kids figured him out instantly.  My baby grand daughter's first word was "Puck" and that is still her favorite word for "dog."  She lavished love and abuse on him for a year of his life.  Not that she would even think about hurting him, but she loved him so much she leapt to hug him when he'd come into the house and, sometimes, she'd practically crush him to the floor. 

There were a few, quite a few, times when I was less than a big admirer of that dog.  Puck would take off, any time we weren't paying perfect attention, chasing down the sound of kids or other dogs.  I spent too many afternoons and evenings stalking our neighborhood looking for "that damned dog" and I vowed, more than once, to beat him into a pulp when I found him.  I always found him playing with kids and he'd be so happy to see me that my anger would dissolve into something closer to disappointment.  Disappointment that he wasn't satisfied with our company, that he so desperately need to be around children, that two old people who cared for him weren't enough to keep him happy.  It wasn't his fault. He just wasn't our dog.  He was a kid's dog.

So, finally, we saw the light and my daughter's family adopted him.  He flourished, only running away a couple of times in the year he lived with them, with two in-house kids to love.  In the last couple of months, he developed a urinary problem.  My wife and daughter took him to a vet, who gave him antibiotics and said it was either an infection or something much more serious.  The bleeding cleared up and he did well, except for slowly dropping weight while appearing to have a good appetite, in the next month and a half.    Suddenly, one morning, my daughter discovered that Puck couldn't stand and was dragging his hind legs around the yard. 

She called us, my wife and I, for advice.  We aren't particularly wise about sickness, death, or doctors.  We both lost our mothers to cancer and we're fatalistic about death.  Still, I didn't want the kids to watch their pet die, so I offered to bring him back to our home, to what we still called "Puck's yard," to see if a change in place might help. 

For a day, it seemed to.  Puck couldn't walk down the porch steps, but he did take some tentative steps in his old yard and found his way up to the deck in his yard, where his dog house used to be and where he'd spent many hours listening for the sound of neighborhood children playing.  He was with us for two days and, the morning he died, my wife had spent a few moments with him before going to work.  She thought he seemed tired, but he didn't show any signs of being in pain.  I left for a department meeting that morning and didn't get out of the house in time to look in on him before I left for work. 

When I came home, about noon, I went out to see if he'd eaten.  It was starting to rain a little and Puck hated being in the rain.  If he was not in his dog house, I planned to carry him into our sun porch, where we had a mat and some blankets laid out for him.  I found him, slightly warm but stiffening, at the edge of the deck. He was probably trying to crawl under the deck, where he'd spent a lot of warm or rainy days when he lived with us.  His wild eyes were still open, his huge tongue was out, but cold and unmoving, and his constant grin was replaced by something lifeless, something not at all like the dog I'd known for almost eight years. 

Puck and I had something different than "love" between us.  He frustrated the hell out of me, running away and being the most incredibly "lazy" dog I've known.  He didn't chase balls, catch Frisbees, or play tug-a-war.  Puck didn't particularly like going for a walk and wouldn't run if you chased him with a pitchfork.  He hated water and cowered like he was being beaten when we took him to the lake to swim with the family.  He just wanted to lay in the shade and be played with by children.  Not a bad life's goal, obviously. 

Some folks will probably say we abused him by not taking him back to a vet to be prodded, probed, poked, x-rayed, hacked open, and experimented on.  Maybe.  He might have lived longer if we had.  He might have died miserably in a vet's cage or on an operating table.  Puck hated his visits to the vet, even when he was there for a few days while we traveled.  The women who cared for him on those occasions said he was "the best dog" and gushed over him like he was a baby, but he desperately wanted out of that place and acted as if we'd abandoned him for few days after he got back home. I'd have to carry him into the vet's office for his annual shots.  He was passive, didn't try to escape, bite me, or struggle, but he wouldn't walk into that building on his own power. 

I know how he feels.  I worked in medical devices for a couple of centuries, one decade.  I met lots of greedy, careless, arrogant, uninformed, unskilled doctors.  I also met a few dedicated, incredibly skilled rare exceptions.  I found that hospitals are soulless, heartless, unhealthy places to die, even though a wonderful facility (Denver General Hospital) and its amazing surgeons gave my daughter's life back to her and my family.

All I want from the medical business, when I'm dying, is whatever it takes to live as comfortably as possible for however long I have to live.  No chemotherapy, no radical surgery, no radiation, no messed-up pharmaceutical experiments, no funky plastic replacement organs or bone parts, no electronic cardio-stimulation crap, and no time wasted in a hospital bed.  Tell me how long I have to live, give me whatever I need to squash the pain, and get the hell out of my way while I finish up the days of my life. 

That's how I hope to finish this mortal coil (whatever that means).  I may fail.  I may lose courage and wallow in false hope while I make my family miserable caring for my gutless butt, but I hope to do better than that.  Besides, I'm a lousy patient. 

Puck died well.  I can only hope to die as untroubled. 

When I found him in the yard, I sat with him for a few moments, remembering how vital and loving he'd been.  Just the night before, I'd sat in the yard and talked to him while he rested his head on my leg.  We made some kind of peace with each other and I couldn't find any sign that he was in pain.  I rubbed his neck, he licked my hand, and we watched the geese in the lake and the trees waving in the wind.  Leaves were budding on the trees, it was a warm, sunny day.  I left him outside that night, thinking he'd be more comfortable in his yard, in his dog house, than on the tile floor of the sun porch. 

Now, he is dead. 

I closed his eyes, wrapped him in a sheet, carried him down by our lake, and buried him in the rain.  While I dug the hole, I put a tarp over him, to keep him dry.  Puck hated the rain and I stupidly thought he'd be "more comfortable" under a tarp than getting wet under a sheet.  When I put him into the hole, I was amazed at how small he was.  He'd lost a lot of weight, but that wasn't all.  He seemed so much larger in life than he was in death. 

Today, I'm working in the attic and it's raining again.  When I took a break and looked out the window, I had a perfect view of "Puck's yard."  I remembered him wandering the yard, looking up to see if someone was watching him, hoping someone would let him out to go look for kids to play with. Then that recollection vanished and was replaced with the memory of that dead, furry shell he'd left for me to bury.  I don't think I've yet shed tears for Puck.  Maybe I didn't love him as much as he deserved.  Maybe I'm old enough that a dog's death won't make me cry.  Maybe I'm an asshole who doesn't care about my own pet's life and death. 

What I did think about, looking out that window, was all the people who've lost more this year, this month.  Parents who've lost sons and daughters to war, terrorists, criminals, disease, and accidents.  Those who have lost a spouse, a friend, or someone or something dear to them through no fault of their own.   I thought about the people who had to bury or burn the bodies of their loved ones, because there was no one there to do it for them.  I compared that to my shallow experience burying my grandkids' dog. 

I thought about those pampered assholes in Washington and Wall Street who are so immune to human feeling; greedy rationalizing men and women who callously bomb innocents who had the gall to get between the oil coveted by the Texas Mafia.  I pictured myself as one of my fellow Americans trapped inside of nature's fires, hurricanes and floodwaters, ignored by those soul-dead bastards.  My dog's death didn't compare.  Nothing I've ever experienced compares.

What can it feel like to be treated that badly?  How much can you hate someone who causes that kind of misery?  How far would you go to "get back" at someone who dropped a bomb, carelessly and viciously, on someone you loved?  I think I feel a little of how far I'd go and it scares the hell out of me.  It scares me that this government is making that kind of enemies for my family and my country.

April 2006


Deserving the Government We Make

New PictureWhen the Onion ran this article back in November of 2008, I wonder if Barak Obama thought it was funny? I didn’t, because I believed satire had devolved into reality and had been obvious to me for three decades that this headline was true; at least for any decent person holding the office.

What would make a reasonably decent, honest, competent person want to run for President of the United States? In the case of Barak Obama, it was inexperience and an unreasonable belief in human decency and an irrational hope that the people elected to Congress and appointed to the Supreme Court actually cared about the people of the country and the future of the world. He was grossly wrong and as such might be the last such President of the United States. Since Reagan, the country has mostly been mismanaged by corrupt carpetbaggers whose sole purpose in seeking office has been to stuff their pockets with as much cash as possible. We’ve had that kind of government more than not in the history of the country, Nixon being the most obvious example in the recent past.


#154 True Unbelievers (2006)

Rat Rants 2006

All Rights Reserved © 2006 Thomas W. Day

Every cult desperately attempts to eliminate folks the cult classifies as "heretics," "infidels," "secular humanists," or simply "different."  Have you ever wondered why?  Having grown up in a fundamentalist family, one that morphed from being fairly traditionally religious to one that today falls solidly in the radical Religious Right, I wondered about this phenomena a lot as a child, a young man, and it still mystifies me a little even today. 

A program that sometimes entertains me, NPR's "Speaking of Faith" was a little less entertaining this week.  The program interviewed "scientist and theologian John Polkinghorne," a poofy Brit who tries to link quarks to faith and creation, imagines that sub-atomic physics is some kind of link to the minds of the gods. Failing to make a noticeable mark in his chosen field of physics, he has slipped into the much milder waters of theology where evidence and mathematical proofs are not necessary, or even tolerated. 

Polkinghorne has a website that is even less entertaining.  In his blinded attempt to justify his illusions, he pushes off every major human excess on atheism.  According to Polkinghorn, the 20th Century horror show was all the result of atheism.  He wrote, ". . . if you don't believe in God it is very hard to believe in a morality that will constrain you when you have an enormous amount of power.  Christian leaders, however powerful, know that they are ‘under God’ and that they do not have ultimate power, but are themselves under judgment.  Atheists, manifestly, do not.  An absence of constraints on the abuse of power leads, understandably, to an abuse of power." 

Hopefully, you are historically conscious enough to know that is incredibly, historically, untrue.  At best, it is a diversion to call Hitler's Germany "atheist."  While the Nazis certainly misread Darwin and tried to turn science into a justification for yet another Manifest Destiny bloodbath, I think it would be hard to find proof that the majority of that crowd didn’t think they had “God on our side.”  The long, vicious history of the Catholic Church establishes the lack of restraint imposed by being “under God.”  The current President of the United States is demonstrating exactly that same freedom of action; based a good bit on his “ability” to talk to God and turn those conversations into anti-democratic and violent action.  If you can find some evidence of restraint in the long, vicious, genocidal history of America’s interpretation of God’s will and an earlier exercise of Manifest Destiny against Native Americans, I’ll be amazed.  Some of the most outspoken God-fearing groups provided the most violence. 

As far as having “ultimate power,” the power of life and death is about as ultimate as power gets and I think Polkinghorne ought to be able to admit that Christian leaders are as likely to abuse that power as are members of any other sect or atheists, for that matter. 

Later in his Q&A page, Polkinghorne states that atheists "actively reject" gods, rather than simply disbelieve, logically, such human fabrications.  As evidence, he claims that rejecting gods requires the atheist to reject “the existence of the universe, anthropic fine-tuning, the existence of objective morality, and the life and witness of Christ and his resurrection.” 

That's quite a collection of red herrings.  My least favorites of these fishy arguments is the bit that makes Stalin, Hitler, and Mao, first, atheists and, second, worse than history's runners-up by quantity. 

Hitler may have been a "Christian-hater," but that hardly makes him an atheist.  Satanists are also Christian-haters but they sure as hell aren't atheists.  Hitler was a freak serial murderer in a serial murdering nation in a serial murdering time of human history.  I think it may be true that many of these freaks and their henchmen were inspired by knee-jerk reactions to the moral failures of Christianity in the previous centuries, but I'm unconvinced that Hitler, Stalin, or Mao put in the investigative work necessary to be atheists.  They were equal inopportunity murderers, wiping out political opponents and political allies, almost equally.  God didn't slow up their murderous intentions any more than gods had an effect on the Manifest Destiny New World freaks who thought a god was telling them to wipe the Native American from the face of the earth or to pillage the civilizations of Africa for warm bodies to man and woman their slave culture.  Particularly, Stalin and Mao were considerably less spiritually or philosophically motivated than they were driven by power and greed.  You can make a better argument for Lenin's philosophical motivation, but he purged his new nation of its best minds early, so I think giving him credit for a higher calling is fallacious. 

I absolutely hate the argument that states that, because Hitler, Stalin, and Mao were born in a world that presented them with the opportunity to murder in previously impossible quantities, these were the world's worst murderers.  I suspect the early Americans came closer to committing the most perfect "civilized" genocide in human history, but there weren't millions of victims available to them, so they failed to achieve to the high standards of 20th Century murder.  Personally, I think once you've murdered for any vile reason, you've committed an unforgivable sin against man, life, and, if there are any, gods.  Two murders is only worse than one because of the additional pain caused to the additional loved ones of the second victim.  Two million vs. two is only worse because of that nearly infinite pain added to the karma of our species.  Dropping a single bomb on a single innocent is unforgivable, regardless of the color of your cowboy hat or the justification provided by gods, politics, or history. 

Linking an obvious fact, the existence of the universe, to a collection of unproven concepts is an old, tired conservative debate tactic.  For example, if objective morality truly existed, our concept of morality should be at least somewhat consistent from culture to culture.  It isn’t.  In fact, morality appears to be evolving as constantly as technology, society, and far faster than biology.  It appears to me that morality is currently evolving in about fifty different directions, in this country alone.  Polkinghorne's using the FDA’s fallacious standard for safe medicine in his last “proof.”  It should not be society’s job to prove a medicine is not harmful before a company experiments on society’s members for profit.  It is not up to atheists to prove the non-existence of Jesus or the non-occurrence of his resurrection.  Before atheists need to consider the possibility, it is the “responsibility” of believers to prove he existed and violated nature by returning from the dead. Evolution and infinite probability in an infinite universe do a fine job of resolving the anthropic fine-tuning issue.

For that matter, the anthropic argument has a hole or ten thousand.  This strange circular and species-centric argument poses the weirdness that if we humans see something, it must exist for us.  Meaning, it was put here for our entertainment or something equally simplistic and egotistical.  This is a spin on the old Socratic imaginary universe, did-a-tree-fall-if-a-human-didn't-see-it, bullshit. 

Personally, I doubt the sincerity of all religions and religious leaders.  Christians do their damnedest to avoid being restrained by anything humble or honest that Christ required of them.  Muslims pick and choose what they want from the Koran and ignore the more difficult, peaceful, generous requirements at their convenience.  Gods are created in man’s image and, because of that, the gods and their creators are as flawed as the worst of men. 

The apparent terror that many humans have of death creates an irrational desire for a magical eternity, life after death, and that cowardice seems to inspire all sorts of evil behaviors.  The intolerance religions have for infidels and heretics seems to me to be based on a lack of belief in the inventions of faith.  The best way to purge that doubt is the kill anyone who inspires uncertainty.  That trait appears to be the link between the Roman persecution of Christians, Christian persecution of Native Americans and Africans, the French and Russian Revolution, the Holocaust, Stalin and Mao’s purges (which had more socio-political than religious components), and most of western abuses of Muslim countries. 

Polkinghorne's willingness to use fallacious arguments to "prove" his position, in light of his rigorous scientific background, seems to me to be more evidence that "believers don't often believe."  The fear he is showing toward the challenge to his illusions is the same fear that has led to persecution, execution, marauding crusades, and human history of violence and misery. The True Unbelievers can not tolerate challenge to their fantastic creations because it causes them to consider the possibility that they are making it all up.  I think it is obvious that is exactly what they are doing, making up gods to relieve their fear of death.  It seems to me that simply facing reality and getting on with life is a more healthy response. 

April 2006


Gospel Music

I have spent my life being the last guy to the party. I guess you can’t grow up in western Kansas and hope to ever become sophisticated, but . . . damn this is ridiculous. For most of my life, I’ve thought this song, written by Janis Joplin, Michael McClure, and Bob Neuwirth, was a novelty tune. For the last couple of weeks it has slowly dawned on me that in this age of football players thanking Jesus for helping them earn their millions of dollars, politicians asking their sheeple to pray for their election, mega churches telling their followers that financial success was evidence of God’s love, and everyone praying that the gods will reward them with some sort of justification for belief Janis was right this is a song of “great social and political import.”

Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz ?
My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends.
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends,
So Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz ?

Oh Lord, won't you buy me a color TV ?
Dialing For Dollars is trying to find me.
I wait for delivery each day until three,
So oh Lord, won't you buy me a color TV ?

Oh Lord, won't you buy me a night on the town ?
I'm counting on you, Lord, please don't let me down.
Prove that you love me and buy the next round,
Oh Lord, won't you buy me a night on the town ?

Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz ?
My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends,
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends,
So oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz ?

With that in mind, I think every Christian church in the world should be required to open their services with this song. It’s best done a cappella, since it’s important that nothing interferes with the song’s clear “message.” The more I think about it, the more I believe this might be the single most honest spiritual in human history. If there are gods out there, they are gonna know if you’re not being honest.

Of course, it wouldn’t hurt to do the song solidly on either alcohol or heroin, like Janis intended. If that’s what it took for Pearl to write this piece of genius, it’s probably what it takes to really get in touch with the gods. Maybe that’s what I need to help me figure out stuff like this in than 45 years?


#153 What Do the Words Mean? (2006)

All Rights Reserved © 2006 Thomas W. Day

George W. Bush often likes to talk about "jobs Americans won't take."  What does that mean?  It's not like we have an in-control unemployment statistic.  While the government sponsored number jabbers about single-digit unemployment, government makes a serious effort to quickly classify out-of-work-workers as "unemployable."  After a few months of job hunting, a worker is switched from unemployed to unemployable.  He or she might be putting in hundreds of hours looking for work, retraining to earn skills that will enhance the opportunity if one should arise, networking and doing everything humanly possible to find a living wage job, but that person is unemployable as far as the statistics are concerned. 

There are millions of people in this unemployable bracket.  There are millions more who have, in fact, given up.  And, of course, there are at least 12 million illegal immigrants who are perfectly willing to take these jobs.  The jobs Americans don't want.  They will risk their lives to cross our massively porous boarders, with little impediment from the INS or our ridiculously misnamed Homeland Security Agency. 

You gotta ask yourself, "why don't we want these jobs?"  I can answer that for a good number of Americans. 

First, those jobs don't pay a living wage.  The best of these jobs are called "McJobs" and for good reason.  They are minimum or less-than-minimum wage jobs without benefits, security, reasonable working conditions, or any redeeming quality.  The businesses that "create" these jobs ought to be ashamed of themselves.  Most of these companies have collections of useless executives, drawing monstrous salaries with benefits that would stagger Arabian princes.  But they can't find the cash to pay a working wage to the few people who actually do work.

The employers, if you will give them that much credibility, constantly complain that they can't keep workers on the job, but they don't make the slightest effort to do the things that any decent human would do to reward fair labor.  So, they're "forced" to hire illegals.  If you don't believe me, take a job with one of these companies for a week, or just read Nickel and Dimed and experience another middle class American's experience as a minimum wage earner.  You'll find that Wal-Mart, McDonald's, and a host of substantial corporations are barely more than slaveowners. 

If that's the case for giant international corporations, with mountains of resources, multi-millionaire executives and multi-billionaire owners, and hundreds of thousands of wealthy investors, what's life like for "unwanted jobholders" of small companies?  If you haven't noticed, OSHA hasn't exactly been an active part of the business world for the last decade or two. Employee protection is about as far from the current national concern as serious exploration of alternative energy.  Minimum wage employees are at the bottom of that low priority.  Illegal employees are far below that standard.

Probably more than any other reason these jobs go wanting for employees is the employers.  The people hiring for this kind of job, jobs that "Americans don't want," are the worst of the worst.  These employers are arrogant, ignorant, unstable, incapable, and short-tempered. They are unconcerned with their employee's safety, job satisfaction, security, or any other characteristic that might be common to a quality job and a competent employer.  If this pack of low-brow aristocrats could beat the crap out of their employees to get a little more productivity, they would.

Not that long ago, a group of these folks testified regarding the difficulty, not in finding employees, but in paying them the going wage.  I heard scumbag after scumbag talk about how awful it was that they had to pay roofers up to $100,000 per year.  Their attitude was that it was unfair that rich, powerful, well-connected men like themselves were unreasonably inconvenienced by being asked to pay that much money to skilled, high-risk employees.  If these douche bags were paying ten times that amount to pro baseball players they wouldn't think twice about the cost.  But paying a fair salary to a lowly roofer, someone whose career could be cut short by knee injuries, falls, or any number of industrial mishaps, is an "unreasonable" hardship.  Have I mentioned how much I like Aerosmith's "Eat the Rich?"

The kind of employers who desperately "need" illegal labor are packing plants, industrial agricultural facilities, barely-legal-themselves non-union smokestack industries, fast food restaurants, and below-the-tax-line small service businesses.  No one willingly works for any of these businesses--not because the work is demeaning, particularly hazardous or difficult--but because these companies are universally mismanaged by vicious bastards who would own slaves, and abuse them, if they could get away with it.  If all of these companies, as they exist today, vanished from the country, they would be replaced with better managed substitutes in minimal time.  If this kind of work paid a living wage and was performed in an employee-respectful business, there would be no shortage of Americans who would want to do these jobs. 

Not only are these the jobs Americans don't want, they are jobs only unwilling hostages will take for the salary these vile bastards will pay and in the unreasonable conditions they will be asked to work.  Personally, I'd like to see Bush and Cheney put in a couple of years doing this kind of work (any kind of work, actually) and, then, if they still want to drive the price of labor down, import sub-skilled labor, and talk about unwilling American laborers, I'll be amazed.  If they knew there was a good chance that they'd have to go back to those jobs again, I know they'd care a lot more about why Americans shun those jobs.  But we don't have to worry about Bush or Cheney ever actually working for a living, do we?  They are the aristocratic elite.  The folks the rest of us labor to support.  They'll never have to work and they'll never comprehend what working for a living is like when the work doesn't support living.

April 2006