Other bits and pieces

Saturday, October 31, 2009

You Kids Get Off My Lawn!

Our country, and therefore the world that follows us, has progressed a great deal from the time of our giving of the finger to King George. I'm not just talking about the obvious leaps in technologies that affect our daily lives. I mean, sure, it's really cool that we don't have to walk to the mailbox anymore like a chump, but those changes are right before our eyes. Our country has also progressed by addressing nearly every aspect of how we live our lives. In an effort to ensure that nobody can possibly ever step on someone's toes, offend each other, go hungry, miss out on health care or education, be unemployed, or not get their pudding when they don't eat their meat, we enacted a brazillion different laws, statutes, codes, ordinances, edicts, mandates, theses, and proclamations under every bailiwick from the Federal Government to your local home owner's association.1 But here's the question: Are we any better off for it? Are we happier?

Let's look at some specific endeavors:

Financial Security:
In the past, it was more common than not for a man (yes, in the past it was just a man) to take a job with a company that does...I don't know...makes cheese graters, and work for that company for at least 20 years. Upon retirement, he received a pension from the company's pension fund. He also would invest his money as he deemed prudent (probably in pork bellies, or G.I. Joe with the Kung Fu Grip) to secure his future and that of his wife and 2.5 children. (I got all this from watching 'Leave It To Beaver'.) Financial independence was within the grasp of anyone willing to work for it. A high school education was employable, and trades were as honorable and nearly as profitable as jobs associated with higher education.

Today, if a man, woman, or trans-gender minotaur works the same job for more than five years they're considered stagnating. Due to the government pretty much running the economy with enough legal code to pen the Gutenberg Bible 600 times, no company can remain profitable doing the same thing for more time than it takes to make a glass of Ovaltine. Instead, corporations are bought, sold, traded, invaded, hostilely taken over, raided, pillaged, liquidated, plundered, and ransacked by whatever parent corporation has the leverage to do so. There's no such thing as pension plans because companies have figured out how to placate employees with golden bale known as the 401k, which saves them reams of greenbacks because they only have to pay a little into it until you quit. So, your 401k isn't going to be worth anything because it was made up of 50% stock in the company you worked for that has been 'acquired' in a leveraged buy-out by a conglomerate of lawyers that liquidated its assets and now the stock is worth a camel fart. So what now?

Social Security my good man! That's right. With a population that is living longer and longer and growing in number like bacteria, some genius thought it would be viable for everyone to pay a little out of their checks to give to the old people. Of course, this same genius didn't bother to tie benefits to actual contributions, so those doing the work are paying in at a rate far below that which those suckling the teat are drawing out. You'll have to work until you're 165 years old, whereupon you will have payed in $200M, and for the next 6 months of the life you have left; you'll get enough money to buy one Twinkie every 72 hours.

Personal Freedoms:
Let's see. 100 years ago, a person was free to...well...do...pretty much whatever the hell they wanted as long as it didn't get in the way of someone else trying to do whatever the hell they wanted. You want to build a house? Build a house. You want to get married? Find a preacher and a pretty girl (no fat chicks). You want to start a business? Start making cheese graters and open a store. You want to spend the afternoon walking around in the street in front of the courthouse praising Jesus, or Jesus? (that second one was Spanish, you have to pronounce it different) Go nuts. If you weren't physically harming someone, stealing what was theirs, or committing fraud against them you were free to go on about your bat-shit crazy day.

It's kind of the same today, except that a person is free to...well...do...basically nothing. You want to build a house? It better be built by a licensed contractor, meet code for electrical, concrete, structural, plumbing, roofing, etc, and then be subject to the HOA, for the color, gardening, and 'curb appeal'. You want to get married? No problem; get a blood test, apply for a license, confirm the preacher has the legal backing to perform the ceremony and get your witnesses to sign in triplicate. Honestly, why in the bras gypsies do I have to have a license to get married? I'm not going to fly a plane with the marriage or anything. You want to start a business? Oh sweet Mary mother of God.

Today, you want to express yourself, that's fine as long as you don't: Say anything religious, anything critical of anyone that looks different than you do, comes from another country, has any relation that looks different than you or comes from another country, anything critical of anything liberal, anything critical of anything conservative, or anything that could possibly be construed (even after the fact) as offensive to anyone, foreign or domestic, for any reason that does or does not really exist...umm...You know what, citizen, perhaps it's just better if you don't say anything at all. Oh yeah...and that nativity scene—yeah...tear that piece of shit down; I'm not supposed to get Jesus in my eye.

Personal Security:
In the past, people understood that role of the police was not to protect you. The police just show up after the fact to try and figure out who did it. People carried guns because a cop was just too heavy. Think about it; when was the last time you can remember ever hearing about the cops actually intervening to stop a crime in progress? I know there are incidents where the off-duty, or plain clothes cop happened to be in the bank when the robbers hit, and then there's hostage stand-offs. But, when the bad guy comes in the night, do you really expect the cops to get there in time to stop them? Of course not, back then, you just popped them. And the bad guys knew it. Wyatt Earp was probably not likely to become the victim of a mugging at an ATM.

Today, under the Federal Pussication Act of 1999, we are not expected to stick up for ourselves in anyway whatsoever. Many states have what are called 'Duty to Retreat' laws. These laws make it a crime to defend yourself against a violent criminal when you could have run away. These laws extend to your own home. If you could have slipped your family out the back door while the thief/murderer/drug addict/rapist was coming the front door (so to speak), you are legally obligated to do so. If you whack the guy in the shin with a golf club, you're no longer the victim. You're now the heartless animal that attacked a poor, defenseless, underprivileged, disenfranchised American who was just trying to make it in this world after his father left and his mother couldn't get off the crack. Damn, you're an asshole. Today, you're supposed to rely on things like alarm systems, on-call security like Brinks or ADT...in other words you are a compulsory coward that has to have someone else come make the bully go away.

Incidentally, if there are any would-be home invaders reading this: I have no problem whatsoever with going to prison for protecting my family. I live in a 'Duty to Retreat' state, and I will shoot you until I am out of ammo if you enter my house uninvited.

Reading, writing, arithmetic. That's what we used to teach. Kids went to school to learn how to do stuff and how stuff worked, or how stuff happened in the past. Teachers were authoritarian masters of their realm—and the parents were on their team. If kids misbehaved in class, the teacher paddled them with a stick. When they got home, they got another one for having embarrassed the family. Teachers had the backing of the community and therefore the latitude to be creative with their instruction. Schools were encouraged to maintain integrity in the evaluations of student performance. The responsibility to succeed fell solely on the student—encouraged by parents. Children learned how succeed, but more importantly, they learned how to fail. And they were stronger for it.

Ask a teacher today how much latitude they have to teach. You'll probably get a cup of coffee thrown at you (if teachers can even have coffee at school anymore). Federal laws pushing arbitrary standards have constricted educators to the point that 'teaching the test' is the only teaching going on. It seems like every time I ask my kid what she did in school today, the answer is 'we reviewed for the test', or 'we took another practice test'. They're only learning what the test evaluates. Misbehaving kids; what's a teacher to do? Are you kidding? If the teacher even looks cross-eyed at the kid, the precious little snowflake is going to text his helicopter mother who will bring a complaint to the district before the end of the day. Or, worse, all the kid has to do is make the allegation that the teacher did something 'inappropriate' and his/her career is effectively over.

I could go on, but this is already running a little long. As people forget how precious their freedoms are, they keep giving them away. I don't understand it. I don't understand why anyone would willingly abdicate their own decision making to the government. Yet, we the people do it every day. We've let our government legislate our lives into an un-navigable minefield of rules, regulations, fees, taxes, torts, and legal red tape. We've let our over-sensibilities contort our social interactions into a Mobius strip where we can barely even communicate without saying the wrong thing. And the worst part; we've lost our collective sense of humor--And that is unforgivable.

© Raymond Smith- 2009


Matt said...

Let's see. 100 years ago, a person was free to...well...do...pretty much whatever the hell they wanted as long as it didn't get in the way of someone else trying to do whatever the hell they wanted.

Sure, as long as your weren't a woman. Or black, in an area with Jim Crow laws. Or pretty much anyone other than a white dude.

Chino said...

That is true. However, it's tangential to my point. The point being made goes to the fact that you have to get a mother-may-I to build a 3-sided dog house today in contrast to the past. Your comments, while accurate, are not really relevant to the argument.

Thanks for reading. Whether you agree or not, all points view are welcome here.

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