Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Eye of a Needle

You know me, I don’t like to get political, but once every
blue moon something comes up that I find hard to ignore.
This presidential election thing seems to have sparked a
whole conversation having to do with whether it’s better for
us, as a society, to cater to the rich people or to the poor
people…and it’s got to be one or the other. Half of us
contend that the rich guy’s in pretty good shape to take care
of himself, and the other half has come up with this mantra:

“Did you ever get a job from a poor man?”

The thought process behind that profound question is, I guess, that if government (which they say we don’t really need at all, but since it exists…) would protect the financial interests of those folks who have money, then they will, in turn, unselfishly provide for the needs of the rest of us. It’s a beautiful concept, really, that incorporates some basic principles of capitalism: Treat your workers well; pay them enough to survive and remain healthy, and reproduce so they can manufacture children to work for your children – but not so much that they can become independent from you. That way the cycle continues and everybody is happy.

One problem with that, as I see it, is that there are so few really rich folk, and so many people in the “working class” that the rich have lost interest in the well-being of the workers. They can always get more. I mean, that’s a problem for the lower end of the equation. Not so much for the other. When this is combined with the other problem – greed – the whole principle appears to collapse under its own weight, and we start seeing something more akin to serfdom than capitalism.

The question, “Did you ever get a job from a poor man?” carries the subtle implication that rich people are more important to our existence than working people…better than working people. I disagree.

Whenever I’m pondering one of these questions, I take things to their extremes, just to make it easier for my little brain to figure it out. So, imagine two new worlds, born from this one. The first one has only rich people, who acquired their fortunes paying others to farm their fields, produce their goods and build their spectacular homes. The second has only the working folk who were previously hired to do all those things for the rich. Which of these worlds would survive? I have an opinion on that. Of course, it’s just theory.

Ironically, while writing this, being a terrible speller, I Googled “subtle implication.” Here’s the very first hit: “Do not be overawed when others grow rich, when the splendor of their houses increases; for they will take nothing with them when they die, their splendor will not descend with them.” – Psalms 49:16,7.

Now, I’m not a particularly religious person, in the classical sense, but I find the operative word in that scripture to be “descend,” rather than “ascend.” Just an observation.

Invariably, the debate over the rich/poor issue leads to discussion of “unions.” The folks who support the rich (oddly, most of them are not rich, themselves) demonize unions to the point that they should be abolished completely; that they are the primary reason for the state of our near-crippled economy. What makes those have-nots think they own any right to assemble against our beloved corporate moguls and hold them hostage to their silly desires for more money and better working conditions? If they want nice things, they should be rich, themselves, right? Everybody knows that as wages and employee expense go up, the price of the fruits of their labor goes up accordingly. After all, the businesses paying these workers aren’t going to take that increased cost out of their pockets. They’re not going to sacrifice their yachts and their summer homes just to make lives better for a bunch of ungrateful employees. If they did that, then what would be the point of wealth? Besides, it’s just not fair to gang up on somebody like that. It’s cheating. It’s “gang mentality” and it shouldn’t be tolerated in a decent, God-fearing society like the US of A. Again, one of the two major political parties agrees with and advances this philosophy while the other supports the concept of collective bargaining. Who’s right?

Back up and take a look from the outside. “Political party.” What is that, if not an assemblage of people, brought together to use their collective power to advance their common agenda? A union? A union that expends a great deal of effort trying to convince the people that unions are a terrible idea? Interesting.

I don’t really have a dog in this fight. I’m not poor, and certainly not rich. I don’t have any particular skills that would enable me to contribute to either of the two fictional worlds. Just an observer, a simple writer, outside, looking in, pondering things that most people probably never give a second thought. Trying to figure people out is tough. Like trying to pass through the eye of a needle.

Monday, October 08, 2012


Monday, October 8, 2012. I got up at the regular time
(no need for you to know what that is); stumbled across
the hall to my office, and opened up the computer to begin
another fun-filled exciting day of dealing with crashed cars,
mangled people, and all that entails.

About 2:30 the phone quit ringing for a while, so I
thought I’d take the opportunity to run (no, not literally)
over to the post office, mail some correspondence, and pay
that box rent fee that I neglected to pay at the end of last month – ending up with me getting evicted. Happens every time. They give me the notice at the first of the month for rent due at the end. By the time the end of the month gets here, I’ve forgotten about it completely. Thankfully, they always lock me out of the box within a couple of days, and that reminds me that I need to pay the rent. They’re helpful like that.

But, today, the windows are closed off with that sliding barricade, like they have in the mall. Nobody’s there, save a nice Hispanic lady who’s coming in as I’m standing in the air lock, looking for some sign, or something, explaining why they’re shut down. At first, I thought maybe it was still Sunday and I’d just lost track of time. I do that a lot. Then, I wondered if maybe they’d closed up in celebration of my daughter-in-law’s birthday. The lady could tell that I was confused. She said to me, in broken English, “I think it is Columbus Day.”

“Well…yes,” I replied, “That’s important! Thank you. Thank you very much.”

Imagine, if you will, my total shame and humiliation. Here am I – a natural-born, 100% red-blooded American man, and I had forgotten this most holy of holidays! Worse yet, I had to be reminded by an immigrant. It must be true what they say about them having a better grasp of our blessings than we do ourselves. Oh, the shame!

Now, with only a small portion of the day remaining, what was I to do about celebrating it? My Italian sailor suit had never been picked up from the cleaners after last year’s blow-out celebration. There were no ingredients in the house to prepare our traditional Columbus Day meal of pepperoni lasagna and that dark oily sauce that nobody knows the name of, to dip the bread in. Not a single bottle of Limoncello to be found. And the giant blow-up Santa Maria yard ornament was still buried up there in the attic, under all the Canadian Boxing Day stuff. I’d never get to it in time. I could rush off to Wal-Mart to buy the Nina and Pinta to complete the set (about time!), but what would be the use? This late, I was sure, they would be completely sold out.

In my mind’s eye, I could see those post office employees – the ones who weren’t there to unlock my box – gathered with their families, wearing their funny hats, drinking Amaretto and eating pizza, singing “Albachiara” (I guess), giving thanks that the world didn’t turn out to be flat, and telling tales of the sea. Pinching each other’s bottoms – all in good fun. But, not me. No! I am a pagan whose only thoughts on this special day involved getting my work done. My precious work.

I can see it all clearly now. At the end of our lives, none of us look back and say “I wish I would have spent more time at work.” But there will be those of us who do look back, regretfully, and proclaim that, if we had it all to do over again, we would have spent more Columbus Days in joyous celebration, like our brothers and sisters in the US Postal Service. I know that now. I won’t be caught off guard this time next year.

Sail on, my friends. Sail on!

© 2012, Rick Baber