You comin’, or not?

So, there was a Town Hall with the President last night. I didn’t watch the whole thing, but what I saw illustrated, at the very least, a return to civility. There was no name calling, no childish posturing, no poking out of the chin or puffing of the chest that has been trypical of the bullying behavior coming from the White House over the past four years. I’m not entirely sure, but it seems there are some who believe that a new administration should perfectly encapsulate all of our dreams and desires and, in many cases, provide antithesis to the status quo of the last crew. In many ways that has already happened, but the media in particular seems intent on poking the fallen ogre to see if it’s really dead. It’s dead, people, if you will allow it to be dead. Continuing to compare current activity to the inadequacies of the past will only stir any last shreds of organic activity in the carcass, so cut it out. Even the President spoke to that last night, saying that we’ve been focused on the last guy for 4-1/2 years, and he wants the next four years to be focused on the American people. What a concept! If we’re tired of talking about the Orange Puff, we should just stop talking about him. It’s just that simple.

As I listen to all of the “analysis” of the Town Hall last night, and the general critique of the new administration, I was struck by sentiment that seems very familiar. He said that he wouldn’t forgive student loan debt up to $50k, in response to a question from a participant. The CNN hosts this morning rattled on and on about how disappointed progressives would find that response, and how that’s not a good sign for younger people, and blah blah blah. Disappointing. Not what we want. Getting what we want is sometimes more the problem than NOT getting what we want. I believe the more imporatnat question is…what do we NEED to provide for that common defense and greater good for ALL? I cannot say that only right-wing extremists visit that short-sighted place, we all go there. If I agree with something, then yeah, it’s what I want and if you agree with me I can give you a smile and a thumbs up. If you don’t agree with me, and have another idea, I give you a frown and a thumbs down. Or worse. Maybe the real answer lies in pushing for a win-win compromise, but we don’t do compromise well. It’s messy, and one side or the other usually feels they are losing something precious, and while they are losing, the other side is gaining, and … there we are, impaled on that zero-sum impasse once again. As long as we operate from a mindset of scarcity, and finite resource availability, we’re going to keep arriving there. When pandemic relief became an urgent topic, we had a multi-trillion dollar debt ceiling. We still do. That debt has not magically evaporated, but there are proposals to disburse billions, if not trillions, of dollars in direct relief for citizens who are drowning in loss of income. According to the accountants and economists, this is still very bad because we are just deficit spending, and … that is a bad thing. OK, well, it must still be possible because we are doing it; there has already been a relief bill that disbursed hundreds of dollars to millions of people. So. Because it’s possible, and it actually happened, despite the prophecies of doom regarding our national debt, I contend … we need to remember these are numbers, on computer screens and pieces of paper. This is not real money, not real bars of gold and silver or clusters of diamonds, and even it it was, those minerals are just material things we have chosen to value.

The value of those things – and the green-tinged paper with numeric designations that we idolize here in this country – are just human constructs of worth, based on abundance or scarcity. Gold is valued at a high rate because it is scarce. If you have some, you’re very special, apparently…so you’re worth is high? Having gold really has nothing to do with your character, or your contribution to society, but more your good fortune or luck? Some of our nation’s so-called original sin involves the bad behavior of those who had resources that were highly valued, but attained by the unpaid and forced labor of others who lacked that resource. Hmm. In this century, we no doubt could synthesize important material resources like gold, or silver, to fulfill their practical usefulness. Gold and diamonds are not highly malleable, and so they have great value in crafting and manufacturing other structures, conducting electricity for other functions, and so on. One of my larger questions about circumstances like this involves the synthetic production of things like gold and diamonds. We’ve synthesized these substances, but because we’re snobs, the synthetic versions are valued less and looked down upon. Cubic zirconia says “fake diamond”, while “real diamonds” are seen as … better (and more expensive, of course). I would ask whether or not cubic zirconia, or whatever synthetic diamond material is available, can actually achieve the function of the “real” diamond, or not. The value of diamonds, in the eyes of most, lies in the beauty of adornments and the display of relative welth and personal abundance. I’m not sure that’s sustainable.

I suppose the issue of adornments brings me to wonder, as a side issue, about beauty. I would admit that beauty is absolutely necessary in the human experience. Beauty is entirely unrelated to personal abundance, or wealth, but very often those wil little access to wealth are excluded from public access to beautiful things. Wealthy “upper class” neighborhoods incude “beautification” efforts in their public spaces – landscaping, trees, flowers, sidewalks, decorative lamp posts and street signs, and so on. These are not efforts made on private property, but on public rights of way. That effort is not included in the planning or maintenance of other neighborhoods. Instead, you may find lack of even basic things like sidewalks, trees, and shrubbery, poor condition of things like street surfaces and traffic control devices like signals and signs. There isn’t much beauty provided, and in the middle of urban areas locked into grids of traffic patterns, there’s not much opportunity to improve that. Access to even clear sky and clean air may be hard to achieve as well. Are they no less deserving of beauty?

Back to value…of things and of people. I believe it’s an ethical dysfunction to value people, but we do it all the time. It’s problematic to value things, because we use them to value peolpe. If I have a 55″ big screen television, am I simply worth more than someone who can’t afford one of those? Why does that television say that I am doing something “right” because I have it? How do I attain it? I somehow attain enough monetary resources to acquire it from a seller, a retailer, a merchant. I attain that monetary resource by…working? Producing a product that is in turn valued? By having inherent wealth, and thereby worth? Some of us have, some of us have not. It’s a capitalist society, and that’s how it works. But even in socialist or communist societies, there’s still a have and have not dichotomy it seems. The prime minister of a communist nation does not live the same way the proletariat lives. A tribal chief in a so-called third world country does not live the same way as the common person. So what’s THAT all about? I suppose it’s just human nature to set up hierarchies of worth and value. It seems to be rather primal, because even lower primates have dominance hierarchies, and certain resources therein go to the more dominant members (male alpha wolves eat first, get their pick of reproductive age females, lead migrations, etc.). I wonder if we humans can get past any of that primal instinct to get a leg up higher than the next person. I’m not sure any longer; it seems to be pretty hard-wired.

So, I guess where I’m a bit troubled is on the issue of how our advanced brains assign value to each other, and to other living things. We typically value ourselves at the pentultimate level in all circumstances, and therein lies our dilemma. When the first colonists arrived on this land, they nearly immediately began to do basic terraforming – cutting down trees to produce materials with which to construct shelter, and to clear the land for placement of the new structures. Once there was shelter, and groups of shelters occupied by like-minded peopole, they asserted their claim to possession of the natural resources there – the land, the water, minerals, herbs, food sources. And we’re still doing it. As a nation, our mindset has been that everything is here to benefit us, to feed us, to house us, to make us more comfortable. That mindset seems to be more the product of the European state than the indigenous mindset, but…we are still highly subject to that primal dominance hierarchy. I suppose there are just degrees of the harm it can do, degrees of the good it can do. The practical aspects of that are simply power…the haves and the have nots reflect that hierarchy, and what it can do. If it’s the way of the human to accept this hierarchy, the simple reality of power, I can live with that. I just don’t believe it’s the way of the human to manipulate and hoard that power, for the good of some and the detriment – or the neglect – of others. That’s an imbalance, on a material level, and on a spiritual level. Most of us would rather ignore the spiritual aspects of the human condition, but it exists, and it exists beyond the realm of want. We cannot ignore it, although it is esoteric and challenging to acknowledge that which cannot be seen, duplicated, observed with the senses. But it exists, and we cannot deny that it exists. Human power dynamics as we experience them is a function of the denial, I believe. Some are physically stronger than others, some are intellectually more gifted than others, but the only reason to value and the strongest and the smartest as more worthy is a power dysfunction. At least that’s how I see it. Not expressed particularly well, but I’m workin’ on it. I suppose this is somewhat an extension of my previous thought exploration about what’s blocking me, and feeling that I am not worth a lot, or not valued, or something. We’ll see. I am approaching the dregs of the second cup of coffee, which usually means it is time for o-u-t-s-i-d-e with the canine, who is definitely NOT the alpha in this household…although on days like this I wonder. I could happily stay inside and not venture out into the cold if it was left up to me, but four feet usually outweigh two when they are pacing around and peering hopefully toward the front door.

This is the very tip of Louisiana, the tip of the boot., the Mississippi River delta…where the River meets the Gulf of Mexico. The place hurricanes are drawn to like a magnet, and the place where there’s another world, unknown to many, hidden in the beauty of the swamp lands.

Published by annzimmerman

I am Louisiana born and bred, now living in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Fortunately for me, I was already living in NC before Hurricane Katrina decimated my beloved New Orleans. An only child, I now feel that I have no personal history since the hurricane destroyed the relics and artifacts of my childhood. As I have always heard, c'est la vie. My Louisiana roots show in my love of good coffee, good food, and good music. My soggy native soil has also shown me that resilience is hard-wired in my consciousness; when the chips are down (or drowned)...bring it on.

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