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General Interest

INDIGNITIES, CATASTROPHES AND ROUTINE DISASTERS

What a world we have. Here we are the most advanced creatures ever to dance in the big ballroom, and what is our lot in life? Is it seamless living in gleaming crystal palaces, our every need provided for by the technology our big brains have invented? Are we gliding across pristine skies in silent hovercraft visiting our neighboring nations, peaceful and prosperous friends who are happy to see us?

Are we celebrating our knowledge, our poetry, our music, arts and literature with appreciative friends who open our eyes to their own different and exciting forms of these universal human pleasures? Are we sharing the planet’s resources, making sure that all of humanity is well fed, educated, comfortably housed and provided with sufficient energy and clean water in a carefully preserved and well respected environment?

If you answered (E) – None of the above, you’re getting warmer. Not only are we at each other’s throats for a thousand crazy reasons, we do the dumbest things on a regular basis. In a world where we sent a man to the moon four decades ago, communicate on a world wide web in seconds, carry cell phones and portable computers, air condition our homes and our cars, fly across vast oceans in a matter of hours and collect data from the far reaches of the universe with space telescopes, our lives are marked by endless indignities, the occasional catastrophe and a continual series of minor disasters, while fully half the world is horribly poor, hungry and illiterate, with over 2 billion of us never having even spoken on a telephone!

So much for our huge brains and our place at the top of the food chain. What have we done with our gifts? Twitter? Reality TV? Fat guys in speedos? Chocolate-covered Twinkies? Glow-in-the-dark condoms? Deranged Cable TV ministers of propaganda?

And that’s just the minor irritations. On a day to day basis every one of us suffers some some indignity large or small, whether at an airport removing your shoes to reveal mismatched, torn socks, in a hospital getting poked and prodded while wearing a formless gown with your butt hanging out, or getting pulled over by a cop for a taillight you didn’t know was broken. Then you get home a little late and the cute little dog your spouse just a had to have has soiled the carpet and chewed up your TV remote.

You might be shopping somewhere and encounter the cashier from hell who decides that you don’t look all that much like the photo on your driver’s license, and asks for more ID for a $12 purchase, for which privilege your credit card company charges you a gangster-like 30% interest rate plus a $59 anual fee. Maybe you’re on the subway going to work and you get treated to the nastiest smelling person imaginable standing beside you arguing with the voices in his head, then asking you to mediate the disagreement.

You read the newspapers only out of some morbid fascination with what’s going to go wrong next, at the same time filled with dread. The globe is warming, oil is running out and suicide killers are growing up in the suburbs. There’s a swine flu and no vaccine available and rich people and the gullible fools they bamboozle into thinking they can join their club (as if!) are screaming bloody murder that our president wants to provide health care for people as if he were proposing to replace The Statue of Liberty with one of a naked Josef Stalin having his way with Lady Liberty. Doggy-style.

You read a report of some bazillionaire resorting to theft on a grand scale like a common thug when he already had enough dough to last a hundred lifetimes, gets caught, pays a hefty fine, says “My bad,” and maybe does a little community service, then getting chauffeured off in his stretch limo to his walled mansion. Meanwhile the people he robbed are hocking their winter clothes to eat, hoping for a mild season.

Then you turn the page and read where some poverty-stricken young stooge robs a few hundred bucks and is sentenced to 12 years in prison where he’s got plenty of company, millions, almost none of them bazillionaires, most of them for being soldiers on the winning side in the bogus War on Drugs that has resulted in more drug use than in the Sixties, with the government getting so pissed off that they are losing their drug war that they lock up minor offenders for long stretches of time, 2.3 million people in the vast gulag of The Land of The Free. Ouch.

So you turn that page in disgust and notice a small item, maybe an inch and a half square, at the bottom of the page informing you that your town has just negotiated successfully with some giant megastore to grace your lovely burg, lucky you, and local officials have granted them huge tax breaks and zoning variances so they can tear down a bunch of homes since they need the better part of a square mile to build their big box and gargantuan parking lot.

Then you get home and there’s an official notice in the mail informing you that your house is being condemned to make way for the giant mega-store, the house you sweated blood to buy and maintain for your growing family, but don’t fret, they will pay you about half of what it’s worth. You go to work the next day all depressed and the boss tells you that your workplace is going out of business since they can’t possibly compete with the giant megastore.

The next year finds all of you crowded into a small apartment, collecting welfare and food stamps while you work full time for minimum wage as a greeter where your job is to repeat these word all day, every day of your life: “Thank you for shopping at Giant Megastore!”

A couple of years into this drudgery you get sick and your Mickey Mouse health plan from Giant Megastore strings you along for a couple of months with paperwork and administrative hearings, then tells you tough crap, yours is a pre-existing condition that would be really expensive to cure, so screw off. Now you have no house to sell to pay your medical bills, and you just blew your modest nest egg on braces for one of your kids’ teeth.

Giant Megastore fires you since you are too sick to day “Thank you for shopping at Giant Megastore” anymore and then you discover your oldest son can’t go to college and he’s the greeter now, chipping in to keep the family going, putting his dream on hold and hoping one of the younger ones can escape. Then you look up your checking account balance and discover you don’t even have enough money left to buy a shotgun and a bus ticket to Giant Megastore corporate headquarters. Now you’re really depressed.

You check in to a hospital, get on Medicare, put on the bare-assed gown, get poked, prodded, tested and rolled all around from one machine to another, one doctor to the next until finally you have the big honcho doctor tell you that if you’d come in a few months earlier they could have saved you, but now it’s too late. You go home and tell your family that your part of the American dream is over, better luck to them. Your last request is to have your headstone chiseled with the words: “Thank you for not shopping at Giant Megastore.”

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