|RANT FROM DECEMBER 2005
"Getting Used to It"
Two decades ago an elderly and very wise friend observed the following "Americans are putting up with a steadily declining standard of living." He has died since then, and I have often been thankful that he didn't have to observe what has been happening since then.|
My friend Tom didn't have to fuss and fume as the manufacturing jobs were shut down in this country. He was not into computers and died before the internet was put together, so he never imagined the outsourcing of white collar jobs by the thousands. He didn't have to watch the interest rate plummet, and stay bottomed out so that persons who thought they could live off interest income were simply cut out of the system, as much as those handed pink slips. Tom would not have been able to imagine the mess our health care system is in, totally unavailable to many millions of people, and designed to limit the delivery of what it's named for, that is, "health care."
Talk about "declining standard of living"! But Tom missed all that. He was making other, more subtle, observations. Some of them depend on the memory system of alert elderly persons. He was thinking like an astute consumer. He was not a poor person, but perhaps a little bit better off than the average guy. He was referring to the changes in what's available. I'll bring his concerns up to date.
Clothing. Where does this stuff come from? [Far away, it turns out.] Sizes don't fit. The style is advanced uglification. The material chafes the skin, or disintegrates with the slightest use. We used to try to keep our clothing clean and mended - now the style is worn-out chic, dragging in the dirt, hanging on to a person as if it had been slept in. Hems unravel and seams come apart. The most interesting color is drab, and is called that. And those who go to high fashion places, which I don't, are paying astronomical prices for fancy-wancy, not anything that protects a body from cold or nakedness.
Sheets. "Sheets are made of shit." That's a direct quote from a modern consumer, who can remember when fitted percale sheets fitted, and lay flat on the bed.
Shoes. Canal boats, clod-hoppers, ten kinds of specialized athletic shoes - they weigh a ton - the kids don't bother to tie them on any more. Good shoes that fit, which can be found if one works at it, cost a fortune. I found a pair, paid for them, and now wear them all the time I'm out of the house, no matter what I'm doing - hiking, gardening, cutting firewood, watching a movie, driving the car - if shoes are required, this dear pair is all I've got.
Food. Tomatoes - unless you grow your own, they aren't really tomatoes at all. I remember tomatoes. Modern kids don't know how badly their standard of living has dropped. Milk - what is this stuff? All of it altered severely from what the cow gave. And what do cows have to do with it? Precious little, it turns out. Bread - Adela still makes our bread. My expressions of ecstasy keep her at it. Persons who think that Bimbo Bread is bread simply don't know what a marvelous invention bread originally was. Chocolate - oh, you can still find, and pay plenty for, good chocolate, but most of it is full of wax and verges on the tasteless, and may not be good for the person eating it.
Toilet Paper. Well, by now, you get the idea. It sure ain't what it used to be - and we're adapting to that lowered standard of living.
More and more people report a chronic sinking feeling. "We're on our way down, and out." "Something has gone wrong, with the whole thing." And we're getting used to it. We're allowing it. "If God is doing this to his world, he needs to be brought to account." But it isn't God. Blaming God, or giving God credit, as Pat Robertson would put it, simply excuses those who are doing it, and us, who are allowing it.
I think you can tell that the more serious matters, which Tom missed out on, trouble me more than the crap consumers must put up with. But Tom was on to something.
Post Script [and not far off the subject] - The Citizens for Alternatives to Radioactive Dumping asked me to write a letter to New Mexico's largest and most confused newspaper, about the latest shenanigans of the Department of Energy, concerning the facility for storage of nuclear waste, near Carlsbad, NM - the Waste Isolation Pilot Project [WIPP]. I wrote one, but the paper didn't deign to print it. So I will, here
"I recall the many public hearings sponsored by the DOE, before the opening of WIPP in the spring of 1999. On one occasion the convener stated that he didn't want any more witnesses to say that the DOE was lying. Many witnesses had testified to that effect. When it became my turn, I had to announce that I would quit stating that the DOE was lying, some time after the DOE left off lying. They haven't yet.
"Here we go again. Those of us who objected to the attempt to isolate lethal material by burying it in wet salt were told, time after time, that only 'low-level' waste would enter WIPP. We knew that the DOE was lying then, and now we have the official admission in the DOE's petition to have the rules changed so that high-level waste can be admitted. They also want to do away with inspection of the contents of the containers!
"What will it take to arouse New Mexicans? I have watched children die of leukemia, and it is very unpleasant. Is anyone monitoring the leukemia rate downstream from that wet salt mine?
"Shame on us for making this material in the first place. And shame on us for letting them scatter it all over our country! WIPP is a plutonium-release facility, and this latest falsehood-ridden ploy simply hurries up the process. Lying doesn't alter the facts of nature in any way, and nature bats last.
A radioactive spill on any New Mexico highway, and the pending inevitable leak of plutonium-contaminated salt water from WIPP, will do wonders to the standard of living of everyone in the vicinity.