Other bits and pieces

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Saturn May Have Been Onto Something

What seems like 300 years ago when I met Big D, I was working construction and living in an apartment with my brother.  I made $8/hour and spent pretty much the bulk of that on rent, bills, pizza and beer.  Well, you could call it beer--Keystone light was the beer substitute I could afford in any measurable quantity.  When D and I got married and joined the service, we started out in a one-bedroom apartment.  We had her 14 year-old car that she had paid cash for with money she’d made waiting tables after high school.  (You’ll have to ask my sister what happened to my car)  Alexis’ crib was under the dinning area light next to the kitchen.  We had a bed, a card table, some handed down pots/pans, etc., and …well that’s about it.  Our disposable income after bills, gas, and food was about $30/month which we would use to rent the occasional movie.  And we were happier than a fat kid with a spoon and a jar of paste. (No offense Josh)

Now this isn’t intended to be some “up hill both ways” post.  We were also not alone in our situation…all our friends were in the same boat.  It’s just how it was; it was how you started out.  “Starting out” being the key phrase here.  You left home under whatever circumstances, maybe you had a little parental starter kit, but for the most part were on your own to scrape and scratch together a living.  The best thing about it was that there was nowhere to go but up, and having basically nothing was the greatest incentive in the world to work hard, get promoted, get educated, and make it better.  The current generation of young people starting out seems to have an entirely different set of expectations.

18-20 year-old kids today want it all, and they think they’re supposed to have it walking out the door.  The entitlement mentality issued to them by the boob-tube has them thinking that you are required to have a six-figure income, fancy car, omni-tron T.V., a bustling social ’lifestyle’, and all the responsibilities of a s 6-year-old hedge hog.  So, what follows is a few tips and pointers for all the young people just getting their first taste of that freedom from their evil parents they’ve been longing for.

  • Do this first.  Walk around your parent’s house.  Notice I said ’parent’s’ house because as much as you may believe that everything around you is your personal field of green to use and abuse with impunity, I assure you it isn’t.   You will notice a lot of nice things.  There’s likely a nice T.V., nice furniture, a reasonably spacious accommodation,  cable entertainment and internet, etc.  Outside a few exceptions to the rule, all of this stuff did not well-up from a magic hole in the ground so your parent’s could pluck it like Manna from heaven when they were 22.  They accumulated all of it over the course of your life by working very hard for years and years and years.  And none of it is yours, so maybe you should start appreciating it.
  • Assess your job skills.  You don’t have any.  In case you are wondering why the saint of an employer who agreed to take a risk by paying you to be a productive cog in his/her machine of his/her dreams isn’t willing to pay you $45/hour to take the trash out and mop floors, this is why.   The only reason they are paying you minimum wage is that they have to.  Your contributions to their evil corporate empire are likely to be worth about half of that…if you’re lucky.
  • Understand that your social life is not the center of anyone’s world but yours.  It’s in everyone else’s way.  Your parents tolerate the narcissistic emotional mean attraction that is your life-consuming gregariousness with more patience than a Cambodian landmine waiting for a goat.  Your budding romance is annoying.
  • Your high school education makes you smarter than a lot of people.  You already know this.  What you don’t know is the actual demographic--I will help you.  Your HS diploma is a certification that you are smarter than: A) Everyone who doesn’t have one. B) No one else.  Contrary to what you’ve allowed yourself to believe because your teacher lauded you for your last writing assignment, or by that debate you won with arguments you  Googled, you actually…truly…I mean really really really really…don’t know shit.
  • Moving out of your parent’s house is not going to be a sweet release into nirvana.  (And yes, nirvana is a word that actually means something, it’s not just a bad band from the 90’s).  If you think the world of your parent’s making is ‘oppressing your free expression’ and ‘smothering you with rules’, wait until you get out of it and into your own world.  It will wrinkle your mind!   All that time you thought you were going to have for heavy petting and kanoodeling with your heart-throb romantic interest--yeah there isn’t going to be any.  If you’re going to college, you will be spending every waking second either working, studying, or taking care of your apartment so that your roommates don’t evict you.  And yes, you will have roommates because otherwise you will starve to death.  Oh, and roommates could give two shits about your social life either…they just want you to pay your bills and do your share of the house work. 
  • Life experience:  You don’t have any of that either.  All that stuff your parent’s tell you that you think is unreasonable, stupid, and just because they just ‘don’t understand you’, is actually real knowledge that they picked up over many years by making choices--some good, some bad, but they learned something over the years and they’re trying to help you cut that corner.  There is only one thing your parent’s haven’t learned:  Trying to help you won’t work because you’re arrogant and all-knowing and insist upon learning hard lessons the hard way.  So…knock yourself out.  But in a few years (hopefully you’re not in jail, dead, or a single parent), you’ll realize that they actually knew what they were talking about.

Of the few people who read this, some will agree with me and others will lambaste me as a complete fool.  Those people fall in to two categories respectively: Old bastards like me who know stuff, and under 20’s that will think I’m full of shit because they already know everything.  So I guess I probably should have just spent my morning eating pie instead of writing this because it won’t make a lick of difference.

© Raymond Smith 2010

Saturday, November 27, 2010

You'll Put Your Eye Out!

"The free man owns himself. He can damage himself with either eating or drinking; he can ruin himself with gambling. If he does he is certainly a damn fool...but if he may not, he is not a free man any more than a dog" --G.K. Chesterton

I never thought I would say this in a million years.  But, last week, the Mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom, actually did something reasonable, sensible, and intelligent.  Of course, a week later he was undone by his own city council, but at least we can give him points for trying.  I may actually lay a golden egg for writing this, but….wait for it…there are actually people in this world more liberal than the Mayor of San Francisco!  Yeah.  I think I just divided by zero.

During the November elections, San Francisco law makers approved a city ordinance that would ban fast food restaurants from including toys in kid’s meals unless those meals met a certain standard for healthiness.  I would put the figures for actual healthiness here but I don’t want to and because your Google works just as well as mine.  Anyway, the week after the elections, Mayor Newsom, defying the laws of man and god, vetoed the measure saying, “That law is totally gay.”  (He didn’t say that, but that would have been really funny if he had.)  Not to be outdone, the city counsel promptly brushed other, less important city business to the side in order to rally in support of the measure.  Because, honestly, if one more week went by it could be your child killed by a Happy Meal.  The counsel voted to overturn Boromir and allow Frodo and Sam to take the ring to…wait…what just happened.

So let it be written, so let it be done!  The good city of San Fran has saved your children from salt and fat and badness of all types by keeping your child from being tempted by the $.04 treasures that accompany the junk food we’ve enjoyed by choice for over a thousand years. (That’s an estimate)  That’s one way of looking at it, here’s another:  The city of San Fransicko has decided that you are not responsible enough to raise your own children in the manner you see fit.  You are not smart enough to decide how often your kid should be allowed to eat this or that.  You are stupid and the city must step in and do your thinking and your choice-making for you--you poor miserable uneducated stupid citizen. And sadly, there is a lot of this country that doesn’t see a problem with this.

Have we really ascended to such an advanced stage of progressive enlightenment as to be willing to abdicate our personal liberties and responsibilities to a higher “thinking body” just to satiate our laziness?  Month after month we hand over more and more of our right to choose so that the government, be it local or federal, can make those choices for us.  Several years ago people thought it was pure insanity when New York City first banned smoking inside places of business.  Now it’s everywhere.  We have laws telling us what we can eat and drink, and what restaurants can put in your food.  Our noble fathers keep us safe with helmet laws, seat belt laws, bicycle laws, and yes…roller skating laws.

There is a proposed law in Missouri to force liquor stores to only sell beer over 60°F (not the outside temperature, I’m talking about the temp of the beer itself).  Some brain trust thinks this will curb drunk driving.   There are taxes on unhealthy ingredients in food.  Laws stipulating the portion sizes restaurants can serve.  Have you heard of ‘Keg Tracking”?  Your beer keg has a GPS device to track  your movements.  Someone thinks this will stem underage drinking.   Playgrounds have “No Running” signs.  Normal childhood games, like Tag and Redrover, have been banned because there is the potential that your precious little snowflake might not return home from school in the package-perfect, unopened collector’s condition in which you sent him.  At what point is the general proletariat going to accept compulsory bubble-wrap before we are allowed to venture outside of our choice-proofed safety dwellings (government approved) to ride the seatbelt-secured walking-speed personal conveyance system (government supplied) to get to the grocery store where you can purchase four different flavors of ‘Food’.

The entire country is going to look like it was gobbled up by Fisher Price and we’re going to be eating USDA Choice Soilent Green!  DAMN IT!!!!

People need to be free to live their lives.  They need to be able to make their choices and live and learn from the consequences of those choices.  If you want to be a paragon of health, have fun.  If you want to be a fat lazy bastard with Cheetos hiding under your man-boobs--go nuts.  The best part of life is living it, enjoying it, taking the risks you want and not taking the ones you don’t.  If you want to smoke…smoke.  You know the risks,  but you’re a grown ass man so do what you want.  You want to really live on the edge and drive to the mail box without wearing your seat belt…be extreme my friend! Get down with your bad self and put a little ketchup on that corndog so that it can reach its full goodness potential.

I’m not a fan of Woody Allen’s movies, or his glasses, or his voice, or well, mostly Woody Allen, but I do like this quote from him, “I could live to be a hundred, but I’d have to give up everything that would make me want to.”

So stop letting your lawmakers stop your fun!  And for those of you worried about the consequences of other people doing stupid shit that can hurt them: Dr. Darwin is always there waiting to take care of them in his own, special way.  That, and there’s Youtube.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

God's Lovely Turnip

Last week Big D and I had the opportunity of visiting Monticello.  For those that don’t keep up on the large houses of old dead rich white dudes, Monticello was the home of Thomas Jefferson back when he was writing really wordy things and making mulatto babies.  The house and grounds are both impressive and T.J. was an impressive man.  That said, there was still a glaring contradiction about his life that no one during the tour was able to completely reconcile.  How could the man who wrote the operating system for the freedom of all people own slaves his whole life?  The tour guide (who was actually quite knowledgeable) attempted to speak to this, but didn’t really have any answers.  And there’s something else.  How is it that 250 years later we still haven’t learned a damn thing from it?

The efforts behind the Declaration of Independence were a grass-roots movement to break from one of the longest held traditions in human history: The idea that person’s worth and station in life was issued at birth.  The American soon-to-be traitors to the crown had an interesting idea; that everyone born into this world should be afforded the right to go about their life in the manner of their choosing, and so long as they don’t try to hinder someone else from doing the same, make their way however they saw fit.  T.J. penned a document clearly stating that people should be free to practice any religion tickled their nipple, adhere to whatever values enriched their lives,  and basically get their business done without the government putting it’s wiener in their chili about what god they pray to, what color is their favorite, or whether they like to date fat women or not.

As most people are aware, approximately six seconds after the ink dried on the Declaration, the sky opened up and started raining big fat turds of hypocrisy as more than 80% of the old white dudes drafting up these lofty notions of utopia owned and mistreated human beings, and beat their wives for not cleaning the microwave oven after cooking ox tales. (That really messes up the nuke)  But we managed to evolve beyond  this contravention…eventually and with a bit of a skirmish in the mid-late 1860s.  So smooth seas on the good ship Freedom after that right?  Yeah….no.

Freedom of religion was a major tenet of the DoI. (Most people don’t know that John Adams tried like hell to include verbiage decrying Jefferson as “A giant doosh.)  Religious values go with religion (Yeah, I know, it didn’t take a rocket surgeon to come up with that)  The majority of colonists at the time were puritanical Christians who’s morals and values led  them to lead exciting lives wrought with adventures like “Missionary Position” and  rumpus sex for the sole purpose of procreation.  They were expressing their religious freedom. And what’s the first order of business when celebrating religious freedom:  Organize the government around your idea of God and hammer out a 36 volume set of laws establishing protestant values as a legal framework for America.  Okay, something doesn’t match up.

Why is polygamy and bigamy against the law?  Why are we having legal battles over whether gays and lesbos can get married?  Why is prostitution illegal?  Who decided that the nuclear family of the 1950’s was the only unit of ménage acceptable within our legal system?  These laws come from the moral underpinnings taken from a snapshot through a window of time in human history.  They reflect the values of Puritan Protestant Christians between 1600-1800.   In fact, all of these practices (and a lot of others) existed for centuries under Christianity, Judaism, and Islam and were perfectly acceptable.  So how did the greatest endeavor for freedom and enlightenment turn right around and impose a singular religious will on society and its legal framework?  But, more importantly, why are we still freaking doing it?

If one man is crazy enough to think that it’s a good idea to have ask for a kitchen pass from three nagging women (I mean, beautiful maidens of goodness and virtue) what do I care?  Does their goofy 4-person marriage somehow stand in the way of my life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness?  A couple of years ago the feds and local cops in Texas (pronounced ’Tayhas’)  raided a compound of polygamists, took their children away, threw the men in jail, and basically up-ended their entire apple cart and made a hot mess of it.  And what evil did they uproot?  What pestilence of human misery did the stalwart do-gooders save us all from?  These people were just living their lives in accordance with their values.  Their children were loved, cared for, and educated.  While their pursuit of life, liberty and happiness was unconventional, it worked for them.  Were their kids likely to grow up and rob convenience stores to buy meth?

People make the argument that a gay couple can’t  raise well adjusted children.  Because, yeah, heterosexuals are doing a bang-up job of that lately.  I’d hazard to guess that a loving couple of flamers or lipstick lesbians has a much better shot at raising a rug-rat to become a productive member of society than a single hetro-mother of six on welfare with a cocaine habit.  And that’s not even the real point.  Does their way of life get in the way of yours?  What are they taking from you?  How is it that a polygamists values are criminal because they differ from yours?  How does some dude paying for sex impact your financial future?  What do you care?  I may not like your way of life and you may not like mine.  That’s the beauty of this place…or at least it was supposed to be.

This country was founded on the principle that anyone should be able to go about their life in the manner of their choosing, so long as they don’t hurt the poor saps around them trying to eek out a living of their own.  Yet still, 200 years later, as the fabric of American destiny includes threads that follow religions ranging from Scientology to Eckankar and the whole VHF spectrum of values, we continue to allow our laws to reflect the values of one religion…and even that one only selectively.   This is America, the land of the free…so long as you prescribe to the values of Christian European dissidents of the 1700’s.  If you want to celebrate freedom, try just living your life and letting someone else do the same.  Because that, my friends, is America.

© Raymond Smith 2010
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