Monday
Feb212005

« The Problems Associated With Being A Cassandra »

It's not easy believing in the immenent crash (within my lifetime) of the industrialized society of which I am a part. Between bouts of depression induced by reading about the clusterfuck that is the modern human condition, I like to take pleasure in the simple things of life. My wife (not particularly simple, I know, but her company is nice), my puppy, my piggies, and my music.

Reading about the end of the oil-based industrial age has not been all bad. It has been quite an education to read through all manner of things across the historical, psychological, philosophical, artistic, and scientific disciplines. I don't hold a degree from any college, but sometimes I get mistaken for someone who does. I was never a reader for fun, but now I finally came to terms with the book and do so for fun, and maybe one day, for survival. The end of the oil age is only going to be the end of life as we know it, and that could be gut-wrenching as we end up moving away from reliance on an ancient substance that has now been used up for good, and has taken a lot of the quality of life from us, either in the pollution that results or the overdevelopment of the land with its disastrous effects on humans, who have (in my culture at least) lost touch with the land that they once revered, and that once sustained them naturally. Getting past the historically anomalous period of oil usage might be a time for humans to get back to what really matters: living.

We surround ourselves with things and call it life, but we are living a lie. I like to think I can exist slightly outside that realm, if only in my daydreams. People like me suffer for that sort of thinking. I don't have big career aspirations, I don't own a new car, I don't drive more than I need to. I don't have many friends who are ready to engage me in a conversation that means something to me. To many, I speak a foreign language because I ache for the sort of life that people could live if we departed from the mindset that our lives be measured in dollars, which I reject wholeheartedly.

Many are surprised to find I am a Christian. I don't talk about it much, and haven't always been in league with the church, but I do believe. But I do not come from the so-called Christian church that you may be hearing about in the news. I reject that brand of Christianity, and even bristle at it being referred to as such. My Christian upbringing is one of justice, humility, peace, and (comm)unity at all costs. Sadly, that is not really in great abundance by the people who are making their presence known today in our national scene. You will not find a fish decal, or a scripture quote or any other such nonsense on my car. You will not hear me rallying against abortion, gay marriage, or evolution taught in school. I may not even rally for the Ten Commandments to be in display in public places. To many, those are the prerequisites to being a Christian. To me, it's nonsense, and a distraction as some of those very same people support war of any sort, and generally are pushing for a more divided society, ridden with all the "us and them" that generations of Americans have fought so hard to eliminate.

Being a Christian these days, and one who seeks to liberate people from suffering and division (the only type of Christian that really matters, from what I have learned), is rough. I believe Mahatma Gandhi was one of the finest Christ-like people ever, despite being a Hindu. A non Christian who lives the Christian message is a great man indeed. Most of us may never be Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr., or any other great men of their kind, but any step in that direction must desperately be made to combat the suffering and grief that humans know these days. It's a need that never goes out of style.

In February 2005, I lost my job as a delivery driver for a senior home delivered meals program. It was the only job I ever got paid for that I actually liked. The one I got up for in the morning, and didn't curse. It was the one in which I didn't feel used like a cheap whore, despite being paid a wage that kept me in a state of poverty (in San Diego, thats easy to achieve). All the work I ever liked, I usually did for free or for not much cash. I've been taken advantage of because I am not a businessman. I've done a range of jobs but don't feel like I have a skill set that someone wants to buy. But then I have to tell myself that I am not a cheap whore to be bought for the highest bidder, or for $9 an hour, or whatever is higher. I reveled in my delivery job for seniors because I made a difference to people. Seven years earlier, I worked at pizza delivery and made almost twice as much money and hated life because it was meaningless work that would throw me away because I didn't follow company policy, or because I might have a car accident and they won't allow people to drive with marred records.

My point, if you are wondering, is this: we go on for most of our lives being mental slaves to a system that would throw us out in a flash. If you go to a job interview, you don't meet with a person, you meet with "human resources." Humanity is reduced to a commodity that can be bought and sold, quantified, and treated the same as iron ore, a forest of pines, or a freshwater lake. Life is not precious anymore. The ground on which we walk has been defiled. The air has been poisoned. The water is transformed into chemical and biological soup. Humanity is like a bunch of lemmings about to run for the cliff in the name of the good life.

The good life has been a timeless attraction, but for about a century, the good life actually came within reach for the proletariat. is good life. We are on the lucky end of the deal now. It may not always be so. But we suffer here too. We suffer because we are only delaying the task ahead which will be a grueling thing to face after decades of entitlements and promises and convenience: eventually, we will have to return to the work of our own survival and recreation, and I could hope that in doing so, people will find that their lives have meaning once again. I've written before that convenience has made us weak. Epidemics of physical and mental ill health have to be related to a society so bent on growing and producing instead of taking care of its own. People aren't made to work this way. Hard work is inevitable in life, and good in many regards, but not hard work in the name of nothing but greed. People have willingly embraced a system that allows their souls to be valued and devalued like currency and the cost of a bushel of wheat or a barrel of oil. I don't find it much of a surprise that we have the family crises that we have in this country. The drive to get out and make a buck has replaced the genuine need to work together to meet needs and keep suffering at bay. Hardly anyone needs to work together anymore, so community and family life has withered in so many regards.

One day we won't be able to "produce" much because of a failed national economy that bet its future on a substance that would only deplete the more we used it, yet foolishly came up with ever more ways to use it, most needlessly. One day we will all be back to work doing what our great grandparents did to get by, instead of the fashionable form of slavery we now labor under. A lot of people will be in for a shock when they find that the good job failed them and that money itself is meaningless if the promise it represents is broken, and all that mattered were the solid networks of humans interacting in mutually beneficial ways. Most jobs today are more or less superfluous to real living. Most of what we surround ourselves with was made by people in those jobs. What a shame. Most people don't realize it, and most people think these things have always been this way. Most people will find out otherwise. I just hope I got a running head start to confront it. Knowing is half the battle.

I never "produced" anything at my senior meals program. Day after day, you would not know I was there except for the notes I left as part of my minor bookkeeping. The truck was parked in the same place, the routes were the same. There was not much evidence that I really did anything there. But at the end of the day, I could know that some of my clients saw no one else that day but me, and that even that fleeting five minute encounter mattered to them more than I could imagine. Or maybe some days I got a history lesson that won't ever be in a book unless I put it there. I never produced anything of worth that could be bought and sold while at this job, but for a while, someone thought it was worth the money to have me there. Then someone else at a higher position saw the numbers and decided otherwise. I'm sure they have produced nothing of worth either, except to show how they can pinch people like me out of jobs. But I assert my untold and probably untapped value to society. I would like to think that my other unproductive job is to relate to you people some vision of an alternative to the status quo. I might die penniless and sick, but someone who reads what I write may go off and do great things. It happens to artists all the time. Totally devalued in life, but hugely influential and revered in death. Such will probably be my fate. (At least the devalued in life part.) Simply put, one can never estimate the trajectory of influence. One day maybe my songs or blogs will take on a resonance I can't imagine. Or maybe they will only ever be a footnote. In the mean time, I will enjoy the company of my wife, dog, and piggies while some brand me as a Cassandra and tell me to go get a "real job."

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