Friday, February 18, 2011

it's the puppets that pull the strings

With greater wisdom comes greater sorrow, has been resonating with me and my good friend around the corner as we get older and constantly re-evaluate what we've heard, what we see, what we once believed, what we still believe, what that means, how wrong we've been, and also what we've learned about God and ourselves and others.

In other countries, words and expression mean that people die and things get bloody. I wish we weren't as complacent as we are about the terrible things that those in power do, but what would I be doing if I was in Tunisia or Libya or Egypt or wherever?

Would I be out there on the streets or letting other people with more to lose be the ones on the receiving end of state brutality? Right now my life is tenuously comfortable and I catch myself clinging to what shreds I have of perceived stability and not wanting to rock the boat too much. That scares me. It's not that I do nothing, it's just that I try to do something that isn't just about making me feel good for doing something awesome, that doesn't align myself with someone's power trip or ulterior motivations and it seems like that is everywhere.

Part of this is that I look at both sides and I don't have much patience. The lesser of two evils is just a smaller and more petty evil that you can usually steer clear of most of the time. The obliviousness of those who run my state, who exist in a bubble of richness and corporate dress codes but love to trumpet their values and supposed working class roots, seem to forget that we're not all overpaid employees feeding at the government trough.

Some of us are living paycheck to paycheck and finding that harder to do as rent is high, gas keeps rising, and food will too. Most of us don't like our unions either but we're stuck paying them dues like it's the mafia and know that if we didn't have them we'd be screwed over even more by the majority of our overlords.

I caught up with one of my friends from college last night, who voted Republican for fiscal reasons, majored in finance and has been out of work for months after the "soul-sucking bank" laid him off. "It scares me that so much power is in the hands of so few people who are so disconnected from those underneath them," he tells me.

He just applied for an accounting job at a small business and says it feels weird to think about the process of actually working with real money and real things because everything he dealt with in college and in the banking world is so abstract and often has little bearing on reality.

Life was easier when we were kids and our history was whitewashed, our world was small, and we believed everything we were told because we didn't know any better. Knowledge is powerful and good but it also makes things more complicated or messy. The "good people" did a lot of bad things too, though that doesn't justify the bad that the others have done.

Has there ever been a time in human history when we weren't fighting? Is it something in our blood? The stakes just keep getting higher, the more we advance as a civilization, the more creative ways we find to destroy, as the discourse degenerates into mutual ugliness rather than any kind of real discussion.

It's probably easier to deal with people you don't like if you persist in willful ignorance about who they are and this is only reinforced by an education system that is so much more concerned about churning out good little workers than a knowledgeable and curious population who thinks critically and questions. Some of us are going to seek out more than others, and it's something that I'm a bit geeky for, but still, even then, there is so much that I don't know about the world, and the more I learn the more I realize how much I just have no clue about.

I wonder how many of my righty friends actually hang out with people who are more liberal than they are and I wonder the same about my lefty friends because the way that I hear the one side talk about the other, I kind of wonder sometimes.

Just like any other group that feels strongly about something (see: musical subcultures, academia), there are infinite shades and ideas contained therein and heated debate within as well. Not all people more conservative than you are neocons, fundies, or libertarian wackjobs. Not all people liberal than you would call themselves Democrats or long for a socialist paradise. Not all pro-choicers hate babies and not all pro-lifers hate women. It might be more comfortable to paint with a broad brush, but it makes a caricature more than a true portrayal.

The more I see of the world, the more I read, the more conversations I listen to, the more perspectives I hear, it's not that I get more confused, but I don't feel like I can fit comfortably within these paradigms of discourse, and when flawed humans with infinite motivations are involved, no one's completely pure or correct. I don't have all the answers, even as there's some things I do take as absolutes. I've got my views on things just as much as anyone else, and you'd probably disagree with aspects of 90% of them and I'm willing to stand corrected when I'm truly in the wrong.

I'd rather have these conversations face-to-face over coffee or beer than in an abstract forum where words will get misconstrued and language gets tricky. I know I can't always do that, but I prefer it infinitely. I don't expect everyone to magically agree and start holding hands, but I do think we all could use a little more respect and humility, because we do a lot of talking and not a lot of doing or even saying anything that does much good, myself included.


Randal Graves said...

Oh great, now you want to shut off anonymous internets slander.

And that, not what you articulated in this post, is what reinforces my natural cynicism in the human animal, you stupidhead!

-- anonymous

Anonymous said...

this is why I have largely opted out of the blogosphere, lots of bonding and or venting over hearsay but little depth less insight. Not sure what the antidote is to that but liberal arts education is just more of the same but with a whole lot of debt. and papered hubris. I think that it is characterological, check out the interview with James Taylor on Charlie Rose's site.